By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – To borrow a line from another popular sport, play ball.
The Big Ten Conference has agreed to play an eight game schedule in eight weeks starting on Oct. 23-24, but now comes the toughest part – making it work during a global pandemic, and with the highly contagious coronavirus spreading on multiple college campuses.
The Big Ten made the announcement for which so many had been waiting on Wednesday morning, and just one day after Nebraska president Ted Carter was caught on a hot mic saying that the league would announce its plans for the 2020 season later in the day.
Carter later said his comment to an Omaha television station was taken out of context, but he obviously knew that something big was about to happen.
So much of what had been reported by the media prior to Carter spilling the beans was based on anonymous sources that almost certainly weren’t any of the conference’s presidents or chancellors.
It was mostly just second-hand information that sometimes lacked clarity and consistency.
But when a Big Ten president says football is about to happen, you tend to believe it because it was the presidents and chancellors who reportedly voted 11-3 on Aug. 11 to cancel the fall season.
The timing of this announcement is interesting because it seems obvious that the Big Ten is trying to hang on to any chance of competing in the college playoff, whose rankings will be announced on Dec. 20th.
It seems the big difference now compared to a month ago when the Big Ten canceled the fall season is that significant progress has been made with regard to rapid testing and tracing of the virus.
The presidents and chancellors also must feel more confident about the ability to guard against and treat the heart effects that are supposedly caused by exposure to the virus, namely myocarditis.
The fear of not knowing the full effects that the virus has on the heart was reportedly the driving force that led to the season being canceled a month ago.
It’s hard to know exactly what has changed in a month, partly due to the Big Ten’s lack of transparency.
So it mostly comes down to trusting that the presidents and chancellors are acting in the best interest of the student-athletes as they were a month ago.
You hope this isn’t just a desperate attempt at a money grab, which the timing might suggest.
But that seems unlikely because why would the Big Ten have waited this long to reverse its decision if money was its biggest motivation?
The Big Ten has made a lot of enemies and suffered through a public relations disaster over the past month since cancelling the fall football season.
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren has suffered most of the backlash, even though he didn’t have a vote on whether to play.
Warren’s lack of transparency hasn’t helped his cause, and he’s also made statements that proved to be false, including saying on Aug. 19 that the decision to postpone the season would not be revisited.
It wasn’t just revisited, it was reversed, much to the delight of the Big Ten community.
Some will say that politics played a role in the Big Ten reversing its decision, and maybe it did.
We’ll never know.
Others will say that public pressure forced the Big Ten to change its stand because there has been plenty of resistance from Big Ten players, and from the parents of Big Ten players.
At this point, though, who cares?
The Big Ten is now preparing for a fall football season, and the only thing that should really matter is figuring a way to make it work as safely as possible.
Saying that you plan to have a fall football season is one thing. Making it work during a pandemic is entirely different.
The product on the field might leave something to be desired when play starts in about a month due to a lack of normal preparation.
But in this case, beggars can’t be choosers.
Fans should just be be thrilled that the Big Ten plans to play football this fall.
The Big Ten teams will only have a little over a month to get ready for the season openers, which isn’t ideal. But what is ideal these days?
The Big Ten is playing football again, and that’s all that should matter besides doing it safely.