Trying to get back in the game, the Big Ten is thinking about turning to a schedule that starts Thanksgiving week, Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said in a report confirmed by several other media outlets.
So what are we to make of this?
First, it’s obvious the pressure from players, coaches, parents—just about everyone, really—to reverse the ill-advised and panicky Aug. 11 decision to not play football this fall has been relentless.
New commissioner Kevin Warren has been under intense criticism for the shutdown decision. Obviously, medical experts were pivotal. Presumably, university presidents/chancellors of the 14 member schools heavily supported the call.
But the attention has all focused on Warren, and rightfully so. He’s the commissioner. And even if he's a rookie, he's the guy taking the snaps.
Second, a Thanksgiving—or later—start kicks the can down the road long enough for the Big Ten to come up with a new plan.
That would be awkward, though, to say the least.
It would not allow Big Ten teams to be in the mix for the College Football Playoff, which is scheduled to go on its usual New Year’s/early January time slot.
It would have Big Ten teams playing games during December, when schools are usually wrapping up semesters. And this year, many schools are using calendars that finish around Thanksgiving to minimize pandemic travel and exposure.
Playing regular-season games in December and January also would create some challenging weather conditions in Big Ten Country. And playing games in domes—a college-style bubble—is not real appetizing, either.
In other words, if the ACC, Big 12 and SEC are able to pull off their plan to play revised schedules beginning in September, a Big Ten season in winter (or early spring) would look like a too-little-too-late decision in wake of the controversial Aug. 11 shutdown.
And even if the ACC/Big 12/SEC plans are curtailed by Covid-19, which remains a very serious possibility, the Big Ten still remains open to criticism that it pulled the plug too early.
If there’s one thing that has been learned from this pandemic, it is that spectator sports need to make every effort, as long as possible, to salvage their seasons. Major league baseball, for example, seemed on the brink of not playing at all this year—and now its abbreviated season is positioned to come out reasonably all right.
The one plan that would bail out the Big Ten would be if it could manage to start in October, even if it only played an eight-game schedule, that would get it back in sync with the Persistent Three.
Is that feasible at this point? Extremely unlikely.
The only other way to reduce the damage the Big Ten has done by shutting down so early is. . . to see the Coronavirus shut down college football entirely. And that’s a very gloomy prospect for the sport.
That said, the test results coming out from college campuses everywhere, but notably in many towns where ACC, Big 12 and SEC campuses are located, are alarming.