Wisconsin Chancellor Explains Big Ten's Decision to Postpone Season, Addresses Potential Return

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The Big Ten shut down fall sports for two primary reasons—an inability to test adequately and uncertain heart-related issues surrounding COVID-19—and the league will not reverse its decision until it has “answers” on those matters, says Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank.

Blank, appearing virtually as a witness during a Senate hearing on Tuesday regarding name, image and likeness, took questioning from Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) about the Big Ten’s murky situation. The league is re-evaluating its decision last month to postpone its football season to the winter or spring, now exploring ways to hold a season this fall.

Blank declined to answer Kaine’s question on whether the Big Ten was voting this week to restore football, and she somewhat dodged an inquiry about whether the vote would have to be unanimous.

“I can’t say what the vote is going to look like,” she says. “Decisions within the Big Ten are largely majority-based decisions, but I’ll be honest, we almost always decide everything by consensus. We very rarely take votes.”

During the hearing, a report surfaced from a Nebraska television station that a Big Ten announcement could come Tuesday night. The report is based on a comment made by Nebraska chancellor Ted Carter, which was recorded by a hot mic. “We're getting ready to announce the Huskers and Big Ten football tonight,” he says.

Blank, meanwhile, shed light on the conference’s decision to postpone fall sports during a two-hour hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

“There were several main reasons for that,” she says of the decision, made Aug. 11. “One was that we were uncertain we could do the level of testing and contact tracing that we needed to keep athletes safe. Secondly, there was this growing evidence about heart-related myocarditis and that evidence was uncertain and it wasn’t clear what it means and we wanted to know more. There were a few other minor reasons.

“Until we have answers to that, we will keep our season postponed. Once we have answers to that and to some of those issues and things that we have ways to deal with them effectively, we will try to plan a delayed season.”

During further questioning with Kaine about the Big Ten re-evaluating its decision, Blank told the lawmaker, “When such a decision happens, your first question should be ‘What’s changed?’

Hopefully we’ll have answers to exactly the issues I have raised.”