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Enough with the speculation — the Big Ten Conference will resume play when it is ready to do so

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Michigan at Indiana

Since the Big Ten’s official decision to postpone fall sports on Aug. 11, there have been a lot of rumors flying around about when the conference plans to resume its football season.

Originally, the plan was “spring,” with an eye toward a March or April start. Then there were talks about a potential January start, much to the delight of Ohio State head coach Ryan Day. Next thing you know, the possibility of beginning the season around Thanksgiving is being discussed.

Now it’s gotten to the point where the President of the United States, Donald Trump, has gotten involved and had a conversation with Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren about a restart for the league. One of the key elements of those discussions was reportedly about rapid testing — one of the biggest hurdles for the conference — and that the White House could be able to supply the Big Ten with some of these saliva-based tests after purchasing 150 million such tests from Abbott Laboratories

Now we are hearing that football may start as early as Oct. 10...yeah, right.

Even after all of these rumors, conversations with the powers that be and “reports,” nothing has changed at the moment. Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos — who is on the subcommittee in charge of creating scheduling models — quickly dismissed the notion of an Oct. 10 start date. The Big Ten said the discussions with President Trump were “productive,” but the league has also made it clear that it will not begin the season until it knows it is safe to do so, or at the very least, can mitigate the risks of COVID-19 to the absolute best of its ability. Shortly after the conversation with POTUS, the Big Ten released this statement, further confirming that nothing has changed as of press time and that it will begin to play sports again at the “appropriate time.”

Here is the thing, though, President Trump does not get to decide when the Big Ten starts up again. Neither do the coaches in the conference, or the athletic directors, or the parents of players. Not even Commissioner Warren gets to make that call. The decision not to play in the fall was decided by the schools’ presidents and chancellors, and those are the same people who will decide when to play again. All of this other stuff is meaningless, and while of course President Trump has a lot of influence, his tweets and push to play are also somewhat meaningless as things currently stand.

Athletic directors, coaches, and even the White House can come up with proposals and plans for safe play to bring to the Big Ten presidents and chancellors, but at the end of the day, those are the individuals who makes the final decision. These leaders already voted 11-3 to postpone the fall sports schedule, and likely aren’t ready to change their tune until they are convinced it is safe to do so. The three dissenting votes were reportedly Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska, but still the majority of the conference remains aligned that now is not the right time to play any competition.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels further explained that the Big Ten’s decision was the right one to make, and was a (mostly) unified one. The fact remains that there is too much uncertainty regarding student-athletes, coaches and other staffers within the programs, and the medical advice the conference was given from doctors and experts was too strong to ignore. He also noted that 28 of the 34 conferences in FBS and FCS combined have made the choice to postpone.

I want to make it clear that I am 100 percent ready for Big Ten football as soon it is able to start — safely. It hurts my soul to know I won’t get to watch Michigan State Spartans football any time soon this fall, but I remain of the opinion that the right call was made. I think the speculation needs to end, though, as it’s getting out of hand. Sources within the conference have said that an “immediate” start to the season is “a really big longshot,” so every rumor out there is pretty much moot. The likeliest start date remains January or further into 2021, but if a Thanksgiving start is possible, the conference will do what is in its power to make it work. Anything prior to late November is not really plausible.

The Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force is working through every possible scenario to get things moving again. It’s simple, Big Ten sports will return when it feels safe and ready to do so, and not a minute sooner. The Big Ten said this in a statement on Tuesday:

“The Big Ten Conference and its Return to Competition Task Force, on behalf of the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C), are exhausting every resource to help student-athletes get back to playing the sports they love, at the appropriate time, in the safest and healthiest way possible.”