One day after Ohio State coach for doing “an excellent job of creating a safe pathway toward returning to play in mid-October,” a Friday report suggested a presentation on the league’s return to the field is in the works. The Big Ten’s Return to Competition Task force is preparing to outline a “safe way to return to play in the upcoming days,” according to Yahoo Sports. Should the league’s plan be successful and the process goes smoothly, a return to play could be plausible by mid-October at the latest, according to a report from ESPN.
It’s the latest development in the twisting saga over if and when Big Ten football will be played this season. Three of college football‘s Power Five conferences are beginning their seasons in September amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Big Ten continues to generate just as many headlines as those playing as the league has been simmering with controversy since it initially canceled the fall season on Aug. 11.
The conference has been sued, criticized by coaches and become a target for players’ parents and even Donald Trump since that decision. But it’s yet to release a plan for when it could begin play, which has become a source of frustration for many connected to the league as the ACC, Big 12 and SEC move forward with their seasons.
While league officials reportedly work to formulate a plan for returning to the field, here is what we know so far about where things stand within the Big Ten.
- When/why did the Big Ten cancel fall sports?: The Big Ten canceled fall sports on Aug. 11 with hopes of playing them in the spring. Commissioner Kevin Warren said at the time that “it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.” The Pac-12 made a similar decision soon after.
- Why do Big Ten officials think it’s unsafe while others play?: Concerns over the potential for myocarditis in the hearts of athletes who’ve had COVID-19 appear to be a hurdle in the league’s return to play. Research from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center published Sept. 11 by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that four of 26 athletes who tested positive for COVID-19 had findings “consistent with myocarditis.” The study also found another eight athletes with imaging results that suggested “prior myocardial injury.”
- Who actually made the decision?: It was unveiled that the league’s presidents voted to cancel the fall season. But that assertion came under scrutiny in the days following the league’s decision. Penn State president Sandy Barbour said, “It’s unclear whether there was ever a vote or not.” Minnesota president Joan Gabel referred to the decision as a “deliberative process where we came to a decision together.” Ultimately, documents revealed that the league presidents voted 11-3 in favor of canceling the season.
- Who was in favor of continuing with the season?: Nebraska, Iowa and Ohio Sate voted to play in the fall, according to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. But the vote to cancel the fall season needed just a 60% majority — or nine votes — in order to pass.
- Warren’s letter: Warren released a letter on Aug. 19 — 11 days after the season’s cancelation — stating that “the vote of the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors was “overwhelmingly in support of postponing fall sports and will not be revisited.”
- Parents protest: Several parents of players from the league protested outside the league’s office in the Chicago suburbs on Aug. 21.
- Neutral sites: On Aug. 26 it was revealed that the league had begun inquiring about holding games for a potential winter season in multiple domed stadiums throughout the region.
- Nebraska lawsuit: Eight Nebraska players filed a lawsuit against the league on Aug. 27 in hopes of forcing the conference to reverse its decision to cancel the season.
- Thanksgiving start?: Word leaked on Aug. 28 that a Thanksgiving start is among the dates under consideration for the Big Ten football season after it was initially expected that play wouldn’t begin until 2021.
- Trump call: Warren spoke to Donald Trump on Sept. 1. Trump posted the following message to Twitter after the conversation: “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!”
- Michigan march: and their parents on Sept. 5 in protest of the postponed season. “We want to play as soon as we possibly can,” he said.
- Day blasts league: Grandstanding from Harbaugh is to be expected. But Ohio State coach Ryan Day, who has just one full season of head coaching experience, joined the fray on Sept. 10. He posted a message to social media saying that “the communication of information from the Big Ten following the decision has been disappointing and often unclear.” However, he also noted that “we still have an opportunity to give our young men what they have worked so hard for: A chance to safely compete for a national championship this fall.”
- Is the College Football Playoff waiting on the Big Ten?: No, the CFP is moving forward without the Big Ten or Pac-12. Its first rankings are scheduled to be released Nov. 17, and the four participants will be selected Dec. 20. Even if the Big Ten and Pac-12 scrambled to begin playing by Thanksgiving, that would still give them just four weeks of football before the selection show. It would be impractical to include a team from either league over teams from the other conferences that are scheduled to have played over twice as many games by that point.
- Is the Pac-12 waiting on the Big Ten?: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has expressed that he would like for the Big Ten and Pac-12 to align their schedules. Doing so could provide nonconference and postseason opportunities for both leagues.