The Return of Big Ten Football

by Howie Brown

How the elite football conference returned to play during COVID-19

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On August 11th, the entire Big Ten had seemingly no chances of playing college football this season, yet about a month later, the eight-game schedule for the fourteen-team conference was announced. After postponing the season, the college football league received criticism from players, and fans. Whether or not the media and pushback from many affected the decision is unknown. After postponing the season, it was almost evident that the decision would be overturned. With the rest of the NCAA playing, the NFL playing, and even high school football underway, it only makes sense that the Big Ten retained their season.

On August 11th Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said, “The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes have been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward.” Addressing criticism from fans and players, Warren said “it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.” Warren vowed that the Big Ten task force for infectious diseases would continue its research on COVID-19 to determine later down the line if the season could begin. Warren also was looking to see how the other major college football conferences, known as the “Power Five”, would end up. As the Power five began their play, the Big Ten received more and more criticism. Many doctors supported the Big Tens original decision, but players and fans deemed the season in dire need of playing. Among the wave of criticism, stood Ohio State starting quarterback Justin Fields.

Fields created a petition that states “We, the football players of the Big Ten… request that the Big Ten Conference immediately reinstate the 2020 football season… Allow Big Ten players/teams who choose to opt-out of playing a fall season to do so without penalty or repercussion.” The petition has been signed by more than 300,000 signatures from athletes, students, parents, and fans. There was a common understanding that the players wanted to play and they were not happy with the postponement.

Coaches around the Big Ten have been very vocal speaking about Warren’s decisions. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh shared his thoughts in a statement “Our student-athletes and coaches want to compete... They have committed, trained and prepared their entire lives for this opportunity… I share in their disappointment today.” Nebraska Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost even discussed leaving the Big Ten to allow his players to compete. "We want to play a Big Ten schedule," Frost said. "... We want to play no matter who it is or where it is. We'll see how those chips fall. We certainly hope it's in the Big Ten. If it isn't, I think we're prepared to look for other options." The coaches too want to participate in the sport they love. Their wishes were eventually fulfilled.

Surprisingly, Warren announced that the Big Ten COVID Taskforce voted unanimously to have the season return on October 24th. Players, coaches, and fans alike have rejoiced in anticipation of the upcoming season. The whole process has pretty much fallen as expected. The Big Ten waited to see how the other leagues would do, as well as if it would become easier and cheaper to get COVID tests later in the season. Big rivalries like Michigan-Ohio State, will be moved from its classic Thanksgiving day game, but “The Game” will still be played this year. The schedule is shown down below. The Big Ten is known for its stadiums filled with sometimes hundreds of thousands of fans like the Michigan and Penn State stadiums. While the seasons will not be the same, there will still be play for the Big Ten student-athletes. Fans will cheer from the sidelines as the Big Ten crown is on the line.