The Big Ten might be turning the car back toward a 2020 season. And with it, perhaps, to games on campus?
The Associated Press joined multiple sites (led by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) in reporting that the Big Ten is considering several options for a modified football season, including one that would begin around Thanksgiving.
There's still plenty to unravel with the Big Ten's plans, not the least of which is COVID-19's future. The conference could press forward with a winter schedule that begins in January as well. Or it could scrap the whole idea and wait until 2021.
One thing's for certain: Big Ten university presidents and chancellors will decide as they did Aug. 11, when they postponed fall sports. The conference made that point clear in a statement regarding the lawsuit eight Nebraska football players filed against the Big Ten.
"The Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) overwhelmingly voted to postpone the fall sports season based on medical concerns and in the best interest of the health and safety of our student-athletes," the statement said. "This was an important decision for our 14 member institutions and the surrounding communities."
Yet the statement ended hopefully, concluding that, "we are actively considering options to get back to competition and look forward to doing so when it is safe to play."
Which brings us back to Beaver Stadium. It's well known that Penn State's home, which has been in its current location since 1960, suffers from infrastructure issues related to cold weather. A winter 2021 season there is impractical.
"In a perfect world would you love to have games in Beaver Stadium this winter and be able to have fans there and be able to help the local economy? Yes. Without a doubt, 100 percent," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "But based on all the information we have, I don’t know how realistic that is right now."
But if the Big Ten does reconsider and recommends beginning the season around Thanksgiving, what's to prevent Penn State from hosting at least one game? Students won't be on campus, since in-person classes are scheduled to end Nov. 20, providing the team with a natural bubble.
Further, if Pennsylvania's restriction on outdoor gatherings remains at 250 people through November, attendance would be a moot point anyway.
Scheduling neutral-site games through the NFL season would be complicated as well, though potentially could be achieved by playing with flexible dates and times. And it's likely that the Big Ten's broadcast partners will lobby for ease-of-use single sites in domed stadiums.
Still, the possibility of a game or two at Beaver Stadium caught a glimmer of sunlight this week. And maybe it would be viable after all. As Carl Heck, Penn State's senior associate director of capital events and facilities, said recently, the stadium's issues could be addressed.
"Obviously the stadium provides some infrastructure challenges," Heck said. "We would work with [the Office of Physical Plant] to identify those so that we're ready to host [games] when the Big Ten would announce our schedule, if that were the case."
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