The Big Ten is reportedly reconsidering its decision to postpone the 2020 college football season — to an extent, at least.
Per multiple reports, Big Ten coaches met Friday to discuss several different start dates after the conference postponed the season on Aug. 11 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. One date that has stood out: Thanksgiving week.
The potential about-face comes after widespread, vocal criticism levied against the conference for its decision. Parents from 11 Big Ten institutions have demanded the conference further explain its decision to postpone the season; eight Nebraska football players even sued it in an effort to reverse the decision.
MORE: Is college football canceled for 2020? Following Power 5 conferences
If the Big Ten were to commit to a late November start date, its 14 institutions would begin their respective seasons well after the ACC, Big 12 and SEC. That could potentially create several logistical issues on the national landscape — particularly as it pertains to the College Football Playoff — but everything until then is simple conjecture.
With that, here’s everything you need to know about the Big Ten’s 2020 college football season: Rumors, news, updates and more.
Big Ten medical subcommittee to present new testing options
(Sept. 11): The Big Ten medical subcommittee, comprising medical experts and athletic directors, will reportedly present at least four new testing programs on Saturday to a subcommittee of eight conference presidents and chancellors. Those programs, which weren’t available in early August when the conference elected to postpone the season, could allow teams to test daily and decrease contact tracing.
If the presidents and chancellors approve the report, it can call a full board meeting for a second presentation. Assuming the full group approves of the findings, that sets up a potential start date before the spring semester. But one conference source said the earliest the Big Ten could return to play is mid-to-late October.
Ryan Day speaks out
(Sept. 10): Ohio State coach Ryan Day released a statement questioning the communication of the Big Ten and the conference’s decision to postpone the decision. Among his qualms with the conference was the simple question: Why is it safe for other teams and conferences to play, but not those in the Big Ten?
Pac-12 wishes to align with Big Ten
(Sept. 3): Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott on Thursday said it is a “high priority” for his league to align with the Big Ten in regard to starting their respective fall sports seasons. Scott’s statement camer after the Pac-12 announced a partnership with Quidel Corporation to implement rapid-results COVID-19 testing on an up-to daily basis for all “close-contact” sports.
Penn State clarifies Big Ten myocarditis numbers
(Sept. 3): Penn State on Thursday clarified claims from Penn State football doctor Wayne Sebastianelli, who on Monday said 30-35 percent of Big Ten athletes who underwent MRI scans appeared to have myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart muscle — after contracting Covid-19.
Penn State spokesman Scott Gilbert on Thursday said Sebastianelli unintentionally cited outdated, preliminary data:
“During his discussion with board members, (Sebastianelli) recalled initial preliminary data that had been verbally shared by a colleague on a forthcoming study, which unbeknownst to him at the time had been published at a lower rate,” Gilbert said. “The research was not conducted by Dr. Sebastianelli or Penn State. Dr. Sebastianelli wishes to clarify this point, and apologize for any confusion.”
Donald Trump reaches out to Big Ten
(Sept. 1): President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he reached out to Big Gen commissioner Kevin Warren about the possibility of starting the season immediately, as opposed to a Thanksgiving or post-New Year start date.
Had a very productive conversation with Kevin Warren, Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, about immediately starting up Big Ten football. Would be good (great!) for everyone – Players, Fans, Country. On the one yard line!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2020
Trump’s tweet fails to mention that Warren cannot unilaterally cancel, postpone or reinstate the season. That will come down to a vote by Big Ten presidents and chancellors, who voted 11-3 in August to postpone the season.
The Big Ten corroborated that Warren spoke with Trump via a statement issued to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, saying, “The Big Ten and its Return to Competition Task Force … are exhausting every resource to help student-athletes get back to playing the sports they love, at the appropriate time, in the safest and healthiest way possible.”
Big Ten voted 11-3 to postpone season
(Aug. 31): Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted 11-3 to postpone the season, according to a brief and two sworn affidavits filed by the league on Monday, per Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic. Those documents, filed in response to Nebraska players’ suit against the conference, suggests the Big Ten may be more forthcoming with knowledge as to why it voted to postpone the season.
Some of the knowledge that may be revealed, per The Athletic: “documented failures and shortcomings in schools’ ability to follow contact tracing, testing and prevention guidelines that league presidents knew about but did not publicly cite as support for their decision.”
Per Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune, the dissenting parties to postpone the season were Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State.
Big Ten considering multiple start dates
(Aug. 28): Per multiple reports — the first of which came from Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — Big Ten coaches convened Friday via Zoom to discuss several potential start dates for the season, including one in late fall. Ohio State director Gene Smith confirmed to the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch that “multiple plans are and have been discussed.”
One date that has stood out among coaches is Thanksgiving week, which would give the Big Ten the ability to play at least eight games. That said, discussions about restructuring the 2020 season are just that: discussions.
Per Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, other potential dates include New Year’s Day, mid-January and post-Super Bowl (Feb. 7, 2021). Nothing has been decided by university presidents or TV partners. Moreover, any reconsideration of the 2020 season would come after the Big Ten reaffirmed that it won’t play a traditional season, despite persistence by coaches.
Nebraska players sue Big Ten
(Aug. 27): Eight Nebraska football players filed a suit against the Big Ten to invalidate the conference’s decision to postpone the 2020 college football season.
Per ESPN, the suit — from Garrett Snodgrass, Garrett Nelson, Ethan Piper, Noa Pola-Gates, Alante Brown, Jackson Hannah and Brant and Brig Banks — claims the conference hurt the players’ future football prospects and their ability to market themselves. It also brings up the allegation that the Big Ten committed a breach of contract by not following its governing documents, under which athletes are third-party beneficiaries; specifically, the suit questions whether the Big Ten conducted a formal vote on how to proceed with the 2020 season.
(The Big Ten on Friday released a statement saying that the university’s various presidents and chancellors voted “overwhelmingly” to postpone the season).
“This lawsuit isn’t about money or damages, it’s about real-life relief,” Mike Flood, the players’ attorney, said in a prepared statement. “These student-athletes have followed all the precautions, underwent regular testing and lived according to the prescribed guidelines … for the chance to play football in September. On Aug. 11, six days after announcing the fall football schedule, a decision was made to cancel everything with vague reasoning and no explanation.”
MORE: Warren’s role as Big Ten’s bad news bearer isn’t his fault, but it is his problem
Big Ten parents pen letter to commissioner Kevin Warren
(Aug. 26): A group comprising parents of football players from 11 Big Ten institutions — tabbed “B1GParentsUnited” — penned an open letter to conference commissioner Kevin Warren, not only to express “a total lack of confidence in your ability to lead and communicate effectively,” but also to demand transparency in the conference’s decision-making process.
The letter detailed three points:
- Transparency of process
- Parent organization forum
- Return to Competition Task Force plan of action
The first of those points demanded the Big Ten release all correspondence as it related to its decision to postpone the football season; the second demanded a forum for the Big Ten to answer questions from the parent group; the third asked questions of the conference’s Return to Competition Task Force, including what methodology it would use in determining a start to the football season.
Nebraska parents threaten to sue Big Ten
(Aug. 21): A group of parents of Nebraska football players threatened to sue the Big Ten, forcing the conference to release documents relating to the conference’s decision to postpone the 2020 football season.
— Nebraska Cornhusker Football Parents (@ParentsNebraska) August 21, 2020
Did Big Ten actually vote on season?
(Aug. 17): The question of whether the Big Ten formally voted on the 2020 season arose on Aug. 17, when Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said she was uncertain whether the conference had actually committed to a vote:
#PennState AD Sandy Barbour on #B1G decision: “It is unclear to me whether or not there was a vote. No one’s ever told me there was. I just don’t know whether there actually was a vote by the chancellors and presidents.”
— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) August 17, 2020
MORE: When is first game of 2020 college football season?
Justin Fields creates #WeWantToPlay petition
(Aug. 16): Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields created and shared a petition requesting the Big Ten Conference to “immediately reinstate the 2020 football season.”
Per the petition:
“We want to play. We believe that safety protocols have been established and can be maintained to mitigate concerns of exposure to Covid 19. We believe that we should have the right to make decisions about what is best for our health and our future. Don’t let our hard work and sacrifice be in vain. #LetUsPlay!”
It’s uncertain whether Fields’ petition is part of the larger #WeWantToPlay movement, which included representatives from each of the Power 5 conferences to create a unified front and message as it relates to the 2020 college football season.
Fields’ petition has garnered more than 300,000 signatures as of Friday, Aug. 28.
Nebraska commits to Big Ten
(Aug. 13): Nebraska confirmed its commitment to the Big Ten, saying it would comply with conference mandates — despite prior intimations that it could potentially seek nonconference opponents to play.
Nebraska AD Bill Moos, speaking to Husker Sports Network on Aug. 13, said he put an end to his school potentially looking elsewhere to play football.
“We like the Big Ten,” Moos said. “We’re going to compete in the Big Ten and be successful in the Big Ten. That was a decision made 10 years ago, the decision stands, and our future plans are to compete and be successful in all of our sports programs in this new conference.”
Much like Ohio State before it, Nebraska’s statement nullified earlier sentiments from Huskers coach Scott Frost.
Ohio State won’t play outside Big Ten
(Aug. 12): Ohio State, despite lobbying against postponing the season prior to the Big Ten’s final Aug. 11 decision, released a statement saying it would not seek to play nonconference opponents in the fall of 2020:
“Ohio State has continued its communications with the Big Ten Conference office regarding a scenario to still play fall football games, but has now determined that this would not be an allowable opportunity for us to move toward,” Smith said in the statement. “We are 100 percent focused on supporting the health and safety and academic success of our student-athletes, and on working with the Big Ten to develop a spring plan for our sports as expeditiously as possible.”
Earlier in the day, coach Ryan Day suggested that Ohio State may be amenable to a full nonconference schedule, saying, “We need to look at every option” to play a fall season. Ohio State’s statement quickly nullified that sentiment.
Big Ten cancels season
(Aug. 11): The Big Ten canceled its fall college football season on Aug. 11, though it committed to exploring a spring season.
Per the Big Ten’s release:
“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.”
Nebraska open to looking at ‘other options’
(Aug. 10): As the Big Ten considered whether to postpone its 2020 season, several member institutions suggested that they would have a fall season with or without the conference. One of the most notable voices in that camp came from Nebraska, whose coach Scott Frost said the Cornhuskers would look at “other options” if the Big Ten canceled its fall season.
“We want to play a Big Ten schedule,” Frost said at the time. “I hope that’s what happens. Our university is committed to playing no matter what — no matter what that looks like and how that looks. We want to play no matter who it is or no matter 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.”