Bowing to pressure from players, coaches and politicians, the Big Ten’s presidents decided Wednesday morning to move forward with an eight-game football season beginning on the weekend of Oct. 24, reversing their August decision to postpone the fall schedule and ending weeks of drama that spread from campuses all the way to the White House.
Citing new information presented by the league’s medical advisory board last weekend, including the imminent availability of rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 that can be administered on a daily basis, Big Ten presidents concluded they can safely conduct a football season, even as some of them struggle with infection rates on their own campuses.
“From the onset of the pandemic, our highest priority has been the health and the safety of our students. The new medical protocols and standards put into place by the Big Ten Return To Competition Task Force were pivotal in the decision to move forward with sports in the conference,” said Northwestern president Morton Schapiro, who chairs the Big Ten’s council of presidents and chancellors.
But the totality of what went into the Big Ten’s change of course is more complicated than that.
Even before the league announced that it had postponed the fall season and would instead try to play in the winter or early spring, there was significant push back from coaches and administrators at some schools, primarily Iowa and Nebraska.