As pressure continues to mount on the Big Ten’s decision-makers for pulling the plug on fall football, another option has been brought to the table by the league’s coaches. The Big Ten is considering a schedule that would start Thanksgiving week as one of numerous options for when to begin playing college football again, a league source confirmed to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd.
There are several ideas being kicked around within the conference, according to Dodd. Not all of them involving a start before January. League sources seem to be making accommodation for a potential earlier start in 2020 if there is what was termed an “overnight” change surrounding medical conditions, testing and contact tracing.
Big Ten coaches came up with the Thanksgiving idea, according to Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, who first reported this potential breakthrough. This would potentially give the Big Ten the ability to play 10-11 games in a season as opposed to eight if it started in January 2021.
It has previously been reported that the league is examining playing its season in several domed stadiums this winter. Purdue coach Jeff Brohm also outlined, in great detail, what a spring season could look like without infringing too much on the following season in fall 2021.
The Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West and MAC all decided earlier this month to cancel their fall schedules and look toward play in spring 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dodd notes that any shift to an earlier start by the BIg Ten would likely be viewed by some as caving to pressure from players, parents and some coaches who are against a spring season. That would raise another question: What would have changed since Aug. 11 when the league postponed all fall sports? How could the Big Ten play football in the fall not any other fall sports?
A Thanksgiving week start would raise an additional question: Why not start in early October and get in an eight-week season, allowing the Big Ten to compete for the College Football Playoff?
Either way, the Big Ten could wind up in the awkward position of playing regular-season games while the rest of college football is gearing up for the CFP National Championship, scheduled for Jan. 11, 2021.
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren reiterated last week that the conference has no intention of revisiting the possibility of playing football this fall. Any decision would need to be made by the Big Ten’s presidents. Given the league’s concerns about safety and the overall uncertainty of conducting a season within the coronavirus pandemic, it would take a massive medical breakthrough for it to change its mind.
The Journal-Sentinel‘s report notes that the FDA recently granted emergency approval for a rapid antigen test designed by Abbott Labs, which would be inexpensive ($5), fast (15-minute turnaround time) and wouldn’t need to be sent to a lab. Frequent, accurate, fast and — if possible — cost-effective testing would be helpful for conferences trying to navigate this season without a true bubble. But it is also only one part of the equation.
The Big Ten is surely looking at all options for resuming football when it can. Starting up three months from now — while possible, given that coaches wouldn’t need more than about a month of practice — would signal a massive, unexpected reversal of its hard-held stance.