Big Ten Football Will Begin in 2020, Reversing Earlier Decision

The Four Percent


Rutgers, whose president just last week signaled his sustained opposition to playing this fall, issued a statement that was not effusive in its support of a season but said the league’s plan was “sufficiently compelling that conference members now support a plan to begin playing.”

Before the Big Ten’s announcement in August, players had urged the conference and the league to prepare “a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety and well-being of players” during the season. The league’s decision days later limited that nascent movement’s power, but in the turbulent weeks that followed, some Big Ten players, including Justin Fields, the Ohio State quarterback, urged the conference to find a way to play.

“Let’s goooooo!!!” Fields tweeted on Wednesday.

The White House sought to claim credit for the restoration of Big Ten football after President Trump called Warren on Sept. 1 to offer federal support. League officials said, though, that the conference had not accepted any aid from Washington and scoffed at the president’s Wednesday morning tweet in which he said it was his “great honor to have helped!!!”

“It wasn’t about political pressure, it wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about lawsuits and it wasn’t about what everyone else is doing,” Morton Schapiro, the president of Northwestern and the chairman of the Big Ten’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors, said of what had shaped his thinking.

But the reversal, one of the most striking in the history of college sports and announced 36 days after the Big Ten became the first Power 5 league to drop plans for football in 2020, instantly quelled some of the pressure the league faced from prominent coaches, players, fans and the president. And with athletic departments hemorrhaging money to the point that some had already begun to cut sports programs, the decision provoked accusations that the league was prioritizing profits, entertainment and a measure of public relations peace over health and safety.

Officials at the handful of schools that voted last month to play, including Ohio State, which is likely to contend for this unusual season’s national title, all but lit firecrackers on Wednesday, victorious after weeks of openly fanning dissent.

“Our players want to play, our coaches want to coach and our fans want to watch,” said Bill Moos, the athletic director at Nebraska. “And we’re going to be able to do all of these things now, and that’s why it is a celebration. And I believe, and very strongly, that the state of Nebraska needs football.”



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