Big Ten Football Schedule Designed To Have Flexibility
The Big Ten this morning unveiled its '20 football schedule, which was "designed to have flexibility to move the season around, much like a malleable structure," according to Pete Thamel of YAHOO SPORTS. The Big Ten will be the first major conference to kick off the season, as the league’s "opening schedule is slated for Sept. 5." But both Week 1 and Week 2 "could be moved back to one of the two open dates on the schedule, and Week 3 and Week 4 could be folded into bye dates" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/5). Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren on scheduling the season start for Labor Day weekend said, “What went into the decision was to afford us the best possible opportunity to be as flexible as we possibly can. That was one of the reasons why we decided to go to a ten game, Big Ten-only conference schedule.” He added, “We are all very hopeful to have a Big Ten football season, to have fall sports in our Big Ten conference, but we’re approaching this entire process on a day-to-day basis. We’re gathering medical information daily. We’re communicating with all of our constituents in the Big Ten. We’re communicating with our student athletes and having dialogue with them. This will not be a straight line this year.” Warren noted in order to compete in sports, the physical and mental health, safety and wellness of student athletes must “remain at the top of our list” (Big Ten Network, 8/5).
TOUGH CALL: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is aware that the Rutgers football team has had a recent uptick in coronavirus cases, but said that he is "not ready to order the state university to shut down its season." Murphy said that despite the number of COVID-19 cases connected with the Rutgers football team nearly doubling from 15 to 28 players and multiple staff members testing positive as well, it "hasn't changed his thinking on any decisions regarding the fate of sports in New Jersey this fall." In Newark, Keith Sargeant writes that not playing a college football season this year "would be a doomsday scenario for universities such as Rutgers that play sports at the highest NCAA level." It was reported last month that Rutgers is facing a nearly $50M "loss in revenue if the 2020 college football season is canceled" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 8/5). In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein cites sources as saying that Warren "met with two student-athletes from each Big Ten school by video conference -- one football player, one from a different fall sport." Warren clearly wanted to "take the pulse of players before deciding whether to move forward or pull the plug" on the '20 season. Sources said that after Warren learned Monday of the COVID-19 outbreak at Rutgers, he "reconsidered the conference's next step" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/5).
WHAT'S THE PLAN? In Newark, Steve Politi writes the Big Ten "now has coronavirus brush fires on half of its campuses, and those are just the ones we know about." Northwestern "shut down its program after a positive test this week, while Michigan State, Maryland, Indiana and Illinois have had outbreaks make national headlines." Politi: "What is the Big Ten doing? What is it waiting for?" It is "pure fantasy to think that the conference will play anything resembling a full college football season, and kicking the can down the road a few weeks with a schedule reveal isn't going to do anything to change the reality in this country right now." The conference "needs to take the lead on this and shut it down before more athletes get sick or spread the virus to others." A shortened spring season "will lead to serious logistical issues, but at least planning for that instead of taking this fingers-crossed approach would buy some valuable time" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 8/5).