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Big Ten considering multiple options to begin football season

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The coaches are pushing for a Thanksgiving start or earlier despite the initially postponement of the fall season

Parents of Big Ten Football Players Protest Conference Decision to Postpone Football Season Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The Big Ten is discussing multiple options to begin the season earlier than expected. Jeff Potrykus of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Thanksgiving weekend is one of the possible start dates.

A start date around late November would allow teams to play at least two more games than if they began in January. This is something that coaches within the conference have been lobbying for since the season was pushed back. Warren made it clear that he was not going to budge, but it seems as though there could be a change of heart.

It has been 17 days since the Big Ten became the first Power 5 Conference to postpone their fall activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.”

This decision did not sit well with many players or parents within the conference. Parents have written letters to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren regarding the postponement. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields began the #WeWantToPlay petition that has gained over 300,000 signatures. Most recently, eight Nebraska football players sued the Big Ten because of their decision.

Big Ten officials have noted the importance of rapid test results to make sure that athletes and staff members are not infected. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency approval for a rapid test by Abbott Labs.

“The massive scale of this test and app will allow tens of millions of people to have access to rapid and reliable testing,” Dr. Joseph Petrosino said in a release. “With lab-based tests, you get excellent sensitivity but might have to wait days or longer to get the results. With a rapid antigen test, you get a result right away, getting infectious people off the streets and into quarantine so they don’t spread the virus.”

Petrosino is a professor and chairman, Molecular Virology and Microbiology at the Baylor College of Medicine. These tests would have a result in just 15 minutes and would not have to be sent to a lab.

Ultimately, this decision is up to the University presidents. Television markets will also have to be on board with the decision. This goes beyond the Big Ten Network and involves larger networks such as ESPN and Fox. These are the two networks that give the most revenue to the conference to televise games. Universities were aware of the extreme loss of funds if the season was postponed and much of it was because of revenue from television.

So what would a season beginning in late November look like? If they began play on November 28, they would be able to finish a 10 game schedule for each team by the middle of February. This would give teams a longer offseason than if the season were to take place in the spring.

The discussions are in very early stages but any conversation is better than none at all. This comes at a bit of a surprise given the fact that Warren assured that the decision to postpone the season would not be revisited. Whether it around Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day, we could see Big Ten football much earlier than expected.