Big Ten Football is Finally Back
The Big Ten Conference has announced that it will reinstate the football season for this fall. This follows their controversial decision to postpone all fall sports on August 11, citing concerns with available coronavirus tests and myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that was potentially linked to contracting the coronavirus, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The return of the Big Ten allows Rutgers fans to see the homecoming of coach Greg Schiano this year. During his original tenure with Rutgers from 2001-2011, Schiano won 68 games, which is 4th most in school history.
With a revamped coaching staff and new transfers, including possible new starting quarterback Noah Vedral, a redshirt junior from Nebraska, there is potential for Coach Schiano to lead the Scarlet Knights to a successful season.
On Wednesday, September 16, the Big Ten announced it would play this fall with strict guidelines. Any player that tests positive for the virus must sit out 21 days in order to have enough time to resolve their symptoms and be tested for myocarditis. If team positivity rates exceed 5%, the team must shut down all activities for at least a week. All players and staff must be tested daily.
Despite the regulations, the Big Ten finally has a season. They will play an 8 game regular season followed by a championship game the following week. All conference teams will play during the 9th week as well, based on seeding and division. Each seed will play the team of the same seeding in the opposite division (2 vs. 2, 3 vs. 3, etc.).
The Big Ten presidents allegedly voted 11-3 in favor of postponement last month, with Ohio State, Nebraska, and Iowa voting against. Based on the information presented by team physicians at the time, Commissioner Kevin Warren and the presidents believed this was the right decision for the safety of their players. However, players, coaches, parents and fans disagreed and fought back.
Five days after the initial decision, Ohio State junior quarterback Justin Fields created an online petition in order to persuade the Big Ten to reverse course. He took to social media with his petition, where it was reposted by other players and coaches. The petition received over 300,000 signatures.
Eight Nebraska football players filed a lawsuit against the Big Ten, claiming that the decision harmed career opportunities and business in Nebraska. With players across the Big Ten hoping to be drafted into the NFL, not having exposure to scouts this fall could drastically diminish their draft stock. Players were dissatisfied with the proposal of a season starting in January or in the spring, as this would conflict with training for the NFL and the NFL Combine. Others believed that it would be logistically impossible to organize a winter/spring season due to large amounts of players that would opt-out of the season in favor of NFL training. Various stars within the conference had already done so, including Penn State junior linebacker Micah Parsons, Purdue junior wide receiver Rondale Moore, Minnesota junior wide receiver Rashod Bateman, Ohio State senior cornerback Shaun Wade and Ohio State junior offensive guard Wyatt Davis. However, no Rutgers players are known to have opted out.
Pressure continued to mount on the Big Ten as the season crept closer, as the SEC, Big 12, ACC and American conferences had all maintained their fall seasons with some modifications. Schools with much fewer resources available to them were able to come up with plans to keep their players safe, proving there was no reason why the Big Ten could not play.
Last week, rumors started to gain momentum that the Big Ten was planning a re-vote regarding the football season. No one within the Big Ten corroborated the reports, but there was reason to believe that the Big Ten needed to have some kind of season this fall, as the ramifications of sitting idly by while other conferences played could be catastrophic. Recruits would decommit and go to other universities that seemed to care about football more. Important current roster players would transfer to other universities as well. The conference’s TV deal with FOX could fall through, as the Big 12 was airing their games in the primetime slots the Big Ten had vacated. The College Football Playoff Committee would not view the Big Ten in the light it once had, potentially preventing participation from the conference's teams.
The Big Ten’s decision now puts pressure on the Pac-12, as they too cancelled their fall season in early August. With testing readily available to them, there is no reason that they should not play. Often seen as the weak link in the Power 5 Conferences due to the talent gap with the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, ACC, not having a fall season will not help the Pac-12’s standing in college football. Other conferences, particularly the Mountain West and MAC, are also under pressure to reverse course due to the Big Ten’s decision.