Monday September 21st, 2020 5:08AM

Reverse: Big Ten will try to play fall football after all

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

Players were pumped. Coaches were stoked. Fans seemed relieved. Even the president was pleased.

The Big Ten is going to give fall football a shot after all.

Less than five weeks after pushing fall sports to spring in the name of player safety during the pandemic, the conference ran a reverse Wednesday and said it plans to open its football season the weekend of Oct. 23-24.

“Let’s goooooo!!!” Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields tweeted.

Amid the celebration, a word of caution: This is still not going to be easy.

“We can’t emphasize enough that what we’re putting forward still requires prevention, requires accountability from everyone involved from our student-athletes to coaches to staff to be doing the things to prevent getting this infection,” said Dr. Jim Borchers, the team physician for Ohio State. “And our progress will be measured by their efforts but also we hope by the efforts to provide a clean competition and practice environment.”

All 14 teams will be scheduled to play eight regular-season games in eight weeks, plus have the opportunity to play a ninth game on Dec. 19 when the conference championship game is played. The College Football Playoff selections are scheduled for Dec. 20, which means the Big Ten's best should be back in the hunt for a national championship — if all goes well.

If it does not, the schedule does not provide much room to adapt. Other conferences built in bye weeks, which allows time to deal with potential disruptions. The Big Ten itself did that back in early August, but now must go forward with a condensed schedule and signs that things could go awry.

Across major college football since Aug. 26, 13 games have been postponed because of teams dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. Some have not been rescheduled.

The Big Ten is banking on daily testing to mitigate the risk of outbreaks and decrease the probability that a few positive tests will gut rosters when contact tracing sends players into 14-day quarantines. The Big Ten will begin daily antigen testing of all fall sports athletes, coaches and staff Sept. 30.

The Big Ten is taking an especially cautious approach with those who do test positive: The earliest an athlete will be able to return to game competition is 21 days after a positive diagnosis, and following a cardiac evaluation and clearance from a cardiologist.

“We’re in a better place, regardless of how we got here or how painful it was during the time we waited to get this moment,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. “That’s all behind us. What’s beautiful is that we have a process and protocols in place that’s based on science and based on lessons learned since Aug. 11.”

The Big Ten said its Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously to restart sports. The vote last month was 11-3 to postpone, with Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska voting against.

Still, the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania, won't be packed with 100,000 fans as is usually the case in the fall. Not even close. Tickets will not be sold to the general public for Big Ten games, though some attendance is expected.

That’s still an 80,000-seat stadium that we don’t have," said Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who had estimated the loss of football would cost the school $100 million.

The decision to play came after sharp pressure from coaches, players, parents and even President Donald Trump, all of them pushing for a Big Ten football season. The conference is home to a number of battleground states in the November election, and Trump swifly applauded the move.

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro, chairman of the presidents' council, said the turning point for him on giving the green light to football — even though many students have not been allowed back on his school's Evanston, Illinois, campus — didn't come until this past weekend.

“For me, it wasn’t about political pressure, money or lawsuits,” Schapiro said. “It was about the unanimous opinion of our experts. It evolved over the course of weeks.”

The Big Ten will take a bow, but the conference has been battered for a month and businesses in college towns from Nebraska to Maryland have lost millions in sales. First-year Commissioner Kevin Warren was the main target, criticized for a lack of communication and not providing enough information to back the initial decision.

“We have passionate athletes. We have passionate families and we have passionate fans,” Warren said of the blowback. "And so I take that from a positive standpoint.”

The Big Ten postponed fall sports just six days after unveiling a modified, conference-only schedule that was set to begin Labor Day weekend, and indicated it would try to make up the season in the spring. But there was no plan in place and the reaction included criticisim from the president.

“I called the commissioner a couple of weeks ago and we started really putting a lot of pressure on, frankly,” Trump recalled Wednesday. “There was no reason for it not to come back.”

Trump also took aim at the lone Power Five conference not yet scheduled to play: "There is no reason why the Pac-12 shouldn’t be playing now.”

The Pac-12 followed the Big Ten in postponing play last month, but was far more detailed in its explanation and has more hurdles to clear. Half the Pac-12 schools are still operating under statewide restrictions that make it impossible for teams to even practice. The Pac-12 CEO Group is scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the conference’s options.

As the Big Ten and Pac-12 bailed in August, the other Power Five conferences forged ahead, along with three other major college football leagues. Games have started, with the Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference kicking off last week. The Southeastern Conference begins play Sept. 26.

Alvarez said Big Ten teams can begin practicing immediately.

“They never lost faith. They never lost trust. Their behavior through this time has been excellent, and they never stopped fighting," said Ohio State coach Ryan Day, whose team was ranked No. 2 in the preseason Top 25.

The new schedule comes with a twist. On championship Saturday, the plan is to provide each team an additional game, matching teams by their places in the division standings: No. 2 vs. No. 2, No. 3 vs. No. 3 and so on. Alvarez said those matchups could be tweaked to avoid rematches.

For now, the third Big Ten schedule of the year should be ready in about a week. Surely, it will rekindle excitement, but how much of it gets played is still uncertain.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said she supports the Big Ten's decision but noted COVID-19 “is still a very real threat.”

“We’re all trying to do what we can to engage in some normalcy and keep people safe," she said. "There’s not a perfect way to do this.”


AP Sports Writers Larry Lage, Eric Olson and Mitch Stacy as well as AP Writer Aamer Madhani contributed.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at and listen at


More AP college football: and

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Football, AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, College Sports, AP Sports - College Football
© Copyright 2020
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
NCAA basketball season set to open day before Thanksgiving
The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball seasons will begin Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving
6:44PM ( 6 minutes ago )
US govt: Upcoming WeChat 'ban' won't target its users
A looming WeChat ban from the U.S. government won’t target people who use the Chinese messaging app to communicate, according to a filing in a court case Wednesday
6:36PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Reverse: Big Ten will try to play fall football after all
The Big Ten is going to give fall football a shot after all
6:36PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Lightning face adversity and Islanders in East final Game 6
The Tampa Bay Lightning are facing their biggest adversity of the playoffs after failing to eliminate the New York Islanders in Game 5 on Tuesday night
5:44PM ( 1 hour ago )
LeBron James makes All-NBA team for record 16th time
LeBron James now stands alone in All-NBA recognition history, getting there unanimously
3:48PM ( 3 hours ago )
Djokovic behaves better in 1st match since US Open default
Novak Djokovic behaved better in his first match since being defaulted from the U.S. Open
3:22PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Sports
Mahomes, Chiefs on top of season's first AP Pro32 poll
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are on top of the first AP Pro32 poll of the season
8:44PM ( 22 hours ago )
Smart: Georgia's starting QB likely a game-time decision
Georgia still hasn’t decided on a new starting quarterback, and coach Kirby Smart says it will likely be a game-time call on who starts the season opener
7:40PM ( 23 hours ago )
Orgeron: Most LSU players have had, recovered from COVID-19
LSU coach Ed Orgeron says most LSU football players have caught and recovered from COVID-19
7:30PM ( 23 hours ago )
AP Online Football
Gunman shot federal officer inspecting car near courthouse
Court documents say a gunman in a car opened fire on a federal security officer who was inspecting another vehicle outside the U.S. courthouse in Phoenix
5:53PM ( 57 minutes ago )
Health official on leave amid political interference furor
A Trump health appointee is taking a leave of absence after allegations of political interference in the federal coronavirus response, followed by a personal video that warned of election violence and all but equated science with resistance
5:48PM ( 1 hour ago )
Gunman opened fire on federal officer in ambush near court
Court documents say a gunman in a car opened fire on a federal security officer who was inspecting another vehicle outside the U.S. courthouse in Phoenix
5:44PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Hurricane Sally unleashes flooding along the Gulf Coast
Hurricane Sally has lumbered ashore near Gulf Shores, Alabama, as a Category 2 storm, with top winds of 105 mph
3:29PM ( 3 hours ago )
Federal Reserve sees rates near zero at least through 2023
The Federal Reserve expects to keep its benchmark interest rate pegged near zero at least through 2023 as it strives to accelerate economic growth and drive down the unemployment rate
3:18PM ( 3 hours ago )
Study hints antibody drug may cut COVID-19 hospitalizations
A drug company says that partial results from a study testing an antibody drug give hints that it may help keep mild to moderately ill COVID-19 patients from needing to be hospitalized, a goal no current coronavirus medicine has been able to meet
3:05PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Yoshihide Suga named Japan's prime minister, succeeding Abe
Japan’s Parliament has elected Yoshihide Suga as prime minister, replacing long-serving leader Shinzo Abe with his right-hand man
12:13PM ( 6 hours ago )
Story of the Underground Railroad to Mexico gains attention
Scholars and preservation advocates are working to piece together the story of a largely forgotten part of American history: a network that helped thousands of Black slaves escape to Mexico
11:10AM ( 7 hours ago )
Celebs join Instagram 'freeze' to protest Facebook inaction
Celebrities including Kim Kardashian West, Katy Perry and Leonardo DiCaprio are taking part in a 24-hour Instagram “freeze” on Wednesday
9:51AM ( 8 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Tired of waiting: Ohio State stars opt out, move on to draft
Ohio State stars Shaun Wade and Wyatt Davis got tired of waiting for a decision on the football season and chose to opt out and begin preparing for the NFL draft
2:55PM ( 2 days ago )
Biden, flush with cash, boosts ad spending in battlegrounds
President Donald Trump’s massive campaign war chest was supposed to finance an onslaught of attacks that would destroy Joe Biden’s chance of winning in November
2:12PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Top 25: La.-Lafayette leads 10 new teams in rankings
Louisiana-Lafayette and Appalachian State are among 10 new teams ranked in the first regular-season Associated Press college football poll, which was stripped of the schools not yet scheduled to play a fall season
8:29PM ( 2 days ago )
College Sports
AP Source: Big Ten presidents to discuss starting football
The Big Ten university presidents will meet Sunday to hear a presentation about playing a football season _ maybe as soon as late October _ though a vote to restart the postponed season is not guaranteed
5:59PM ( 4 days ago )
Notre Dame extends coach Brian Kelly's contract through 2024
Notre Dame and coach Brian Kelly have agreed to terms on a contract extension that runs through the 2024 season
4:23PM ( 4 days ago )
Sen Jones of Alabama calls rival Tuberville 'Coach Clueless'
Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama has called Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville “Coach Clueless” for the former football coach's recent comments about the coronavirus
8:32PM ( 4 days ago )
AP Sports - College Football
NCAA basketball season set to open day before Thanksgiving
The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball seasons will begin Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving
6:44PM ( 6 minutes ago )
US govt: Upcoming WeChat 'ban' won't target its users
A looming WeChat ban from the U.S. government won’t target people who use the Chinese messaging app to communicate, according to a filing in a court case Wednesday
6:36PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Wildfire smoke brings haze, vivid sunsets to East Coast
The smoke from dozens of wildfires in the western United States is stretching clear across the country — and even pushing into Mexico, Canada and Europe
6:25PM ( 25 minutes ago )
Texas man sentenced to prison for stalking Taylor Swift
A Texas man is sentenced to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to stalking and sending threatening letters about pop star Taylor Swift
6:25PM ( 25 minutes ago )
Hurricane Sally unleashes flooding, hundreds rescued
Hurricane Sally has lumbered ashore near the Florida-Alabama line with 105 mph winds and rain measured in feet, not inches
6:17PM ( 33 minutes ago )