Last week, Big Ten football has reversed its previous decision and announced the football season will begin the weekend of Oct. 24. But, this won’t be your typical college football season.
On Aug. 11, Big Ten officials made the difficult decision to postpone all fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This announcement came less than a week after the Big Ten regular-season game schedule had been released. The postponement had no specific timeline, but hopes of a spring football season were high.
With increasing concerns about the safety of players and coaches, the Big Ten hoped they’d be setting an example for other college conferences to follow. However, that was not the case while the Big 12 and ACC have already started their season. Likewise, the SEC’s Jul. 30 decision to play 10 in-conference games still holds with their season set to begin on Sept. 26.
The schedule consists of eight conference-only games each weekend beginning Oct. 24 until Dec 12. This means eight weekends of football, back-to-back with no bye weeks or wiggle room despite the ever-changing conditions of the global pandemic. Additionally, each team will play a ninth game during the Big Ten Champions Week of Dec. 19.
With COVID-19 outbreaks at many Big Ten campuses including Wisconsin, Michigan State and Maryland, the morality of the decision comes into question. Did the Big Ten succumb to the pressure of other conferences’ decision to play? Are they more concerned with the profits of a football season than they are the safety of student-athletes and coaches? Christine Brennan, a columnist for USA Today believes the decision day was “the darkest day in Big Ten sports history, the day the vaunted conference caved. It choked. It got scared.”
Likewise, with State College being described as “America’s second-fastest-growing Coronavirus hot spot” by Onward State, Coach Franklin’s and President Barron’s support of the decision is controversial. Franklin seems confident in the Big Ten saying “the Big Ten has got very stringent protocols, probably the most stringent protocols in college athletics and maybe even professional athletic” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Players that test positive will have to sit out for 21 days.
Big Ten schools will not be selling tickets to the general public, but will prioritize players’ and coaches’ families first, says the Washington Post. While this won’t be the typical football season that consists of tailgating, 110,000 people packed into Beaver Stadium or the “Sweet Caroline” that we Penn Staters know and love, perhaps it is better than nothing.