Well, folks, it actually happened. Despite a groundswell of opposition from players, their parents, coaches, fans, and media members, the Big Ten Conference presidents officially voted to postpone the 2020 college football season until spring 2021.
Despite the fact that the league released an updated, conference-only schedule last Wednesday and practices had begun for all teams, the presidents presumably decided that the risks associated with playing during a pandemic were not mitigated enough by the extensive protocols that the conference and their own member institutions had put in place.
Rumors started swirling that this was approaching reality on Saturday as reports came out that the B1G presidents were having emergency calls to determine how they would proceed. In turn, the other Power 5 commissioners reportedly had a meeting of their own to determine how those conferences would react to the Big Ten sitting the fall out.
On Monday, it was reported that the preliminary vote to cancel the fall season was a 12-2 decision, with only Iowa and Nebraska voting to play. Nonetheless, teams were allowed to practice on Monday and Tuesday, which Ohio State did, under the B1G’s recommendation to go “light.” From there, it felt like the pendulum had swung in the other direction and that administrators were now favoring pushing back kickoff until later in September. But, alas, that appears to no longer be the case.
There are many questions that still need to be answered, none of which the conference presidents appear to have considered as of yet. The league also needs to answer what changed between practices beginning on Thursday and Friday and the sky falling on Saturday and Sunday when word started leaking out that this decision was imminent. If the season needs to be canceled now — presumably for safety reasons— and the extra flexibility that was created by eliminating non-conference games wasn’t worth utilizing, why were players allowed to practice over the past five days?
In my completely uninformed opinion, it seems likes this is a decision that is being made by the university administrators with little to no input from the athletic and football members of their staffs and at the conference office in Rosemont, Ill. This appears to be far more about liability and covering their own asses than actually determining if it is safe to play or not.
Now, I am not really convinced that it is safe enough to play, but the way that the presidents have handled the situation indicates to me that they don’t actually care if it is safe or not, because they aren’t giving the season every possible opportunity to happen.
The other question is, if it’s not safe for highly-tested, practically-quarantined student-athletes to play a contact sport together, why is it safe to have untested, not-at-all quarantined students sitting in lecture halls and living in dorms together? It just feels like there’s a disconnect between those two situations that can only be explained by the administrators’ obsession over the optics of their handling of the pandemic.
Yet another question that needs to be discussed admittedly feels a bit tin-foil hatty, but one has to wonder if the increased efforts of college football players to organize perhaps influenced the presidents to make this decision quicker than they otherwise would have. There is little that could be more devastating to the cartel structure that is intercollegiate athletics than football players collectively organizing (even if they aren’t legally allowed to form a union) and making demands from the organizations that make billions of dollars on their backs.
Either way, the conference that we now know as the Big Ten has had a football season every year since 1896, and this will be the first year that no conference champion is crowned. Now, seasons did not always happen in the fall, so if they do in fact play in the spring, perhaps that can be retconned to fill in the 2020 gap. But, what is almost certain is that should teams play early next year, it will be little more than a glorified JV season with most of the remaining big-time Big Ten players undoubtedly opting out to prepare for NFL Draft.
From the first official day of preseason camp until whenever Ohio State’s football season ends (which I guess is today), I will be posting a column every single day. Some days they will be longer and in depth, some days they will be short and sweet. Let me know what you think of this one, and what you’d like to see me discuss in the comments or on Twitter. Go Bucks!