Big Ten

STATE COLLEGE – Less than a week after the Big Ten Conference unveiled its 2020 football schedule, the prospects for an upcoming football season seem tenuous.

Two-day talks among the 14 Big Ten presidents over the weekend appear to have resulted in increased momentum to postpone/cancel the scheduled fall sports season amid player safety concerns and the coronavirus.

Dan Patrick during his Monday morning radio broadcast said an announcement could be given as soon as Tuesday.

“Here’s the information I’ve got almost an hour ago: The Big Ten and Pac-12 will cancel their football seasons (Tuesday),” Patrick said on air. “The ACC and the Big 12 are on the fence. The SEC is trying to get a delay to have teams join them. The SEC is looking at exclusive TV contracts.”

Patrick shared the majority of the Big Ten’s presidents are in favor of shelving a fall start to the football season.

“According to (Dan Patrick’s) source, 12 of the 14 Presidents from the Big 10 have voted against having a Fall College Football season,” the Dan Patrick Show tweeted on Monday morning. “Iowa and Nebraska were the two that have been pushing to play.”

Momentum toward postponing/canceling the 2020 season gained traction on Saturday morning after the Mid-American Conference announced the cancelation of fall sports for its 12 programs. The MAC – headquartered in Cleveland – became the first FBS program to make the move.

Nine of the MAC’s 12 programs reside in Michigan and Ohio, states deep within the Big Ten’s geographical footprint.

Over the weekend and well into Sunday night, college football players around the country mobilized on Twitter and collectively voiced their support in favor of playing this fall.

The Big Ten’s conference opener between Ohio State and Illinois is scheduled for Sept. 3.

“The Penn State football doctors, trainers, and coaches have always put our safety and well being before anything else,” Penn State offensive lineman Will Fries tweeted on Saturday. “The precautions and guidelines that our team is following puts us in the best position possible to be healthy and successful. #WeWantToPlay.”

Penn State opened fall camp on Friday, 29 days before the Nittany Lions are scheduled to host Northwestern for the season opener. Friday marked the team’s first day in pads, but that was short-lived as the Big Ten on Saturday informed its football programs their players would no longer be permitted to practice in pads — just helmets.

“The Big Ten Conference announced today, based on the advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, that, until further notice, all institutions will remain in the first two days of the acclimatization period in football (i.e., helmets shall be the only piece of protective equipment student-athletes may wear) as we continue to transition prudently through preseason practice,” the conference said in a statement on Saturday.

As the weekend progressed, momentum around postponing the upcoming season reached further than the Big Ten. Late Sunday night, players from all Power Five conferences – ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC – released a statement in favor of playing a 2020 season. The statement, which started with, “We all want to play football this season,” advocated for universal mandated health and safety protocols and procedures, a guarantee for eligibility should a student-athlete opt out this fall, respect for players who decide to opt-out and other asks.

The grassroots movement wasn’t limited to players.

Sunday night, Dianne Freiermuth, the mother of Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth and president of the Penn State Football Parents Association, shared a letter on behalf of the association.

“The Penn State Football Parents Association supports the standards set by the Big Ten Conference. Our sons are regularly tested and contact tracing protocols have been developed to ensure player safety as well as parent confidence,” read a portion of the letter. “A small number of athletes have been quarantined and isolated as an appropriate response to a positive test result. I truly believe that these young men are being cared for both physically and mentally in a manner that could not be replicated in their own homes.”

Elton Hayes can be reached at ehayes@cnhi.com

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