The Big Ten is a mess right now when it comes to football. After initially planning on a ten-game, conference-only season, the conference’s university presidents voted to punt the season to 2021 earlier this week. This has brought up questions as to what the conference’s next move will be with COVID-19 still being an ever-present “threat“.
At the moment, it looks like the Big Ten wants to try and hold a spring season. Yet after sitting on their hands for three months trying to decide what to do, it wouldn’t be surprising if there is no football at all in the 2020-21 school year.
Had it been up to the players, the chances of a fall season would have increased. But in a world where college athletes continually have their voices suppressed, that was never on the table. Shocker!
Yet the current objective is to play in the spring. That in and of itself brings up a slew of questions that the league (and god forbid, the NCAA) needs to figure out ASAP. How long will the season be? Will teams be playing in a pseudo-bubble? What about early enrollees and players wanting to retain eligibility? There is even the whole issue of those players who are draft eligible.
Looking solely at a spring season, Purdue’s head coach Jeff Brohm came out with what a preliminary season could look like. It is highlighted by an eight-game season with NO BYES and running from late February to May. I bet Brohm feels like he is such a smart guy right now.
Purdue Coach Jeff Brohm has released a football plan for 2021. pic.twitter.com/USYPxNmoOq— Sam McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) August 13, 2020
But this would be an absolute shit show plan to go with. Players need more than three months between seasons and those with NFL aspirations likely wouldn’t play. Thus creating a power vacuum within the conference. So what does the Big Ten do?
They should go with a winter season. Ohio State’s Ryan Day candidly discussed plans for a season more focused during the winter months. Beginning on, or shortly after January 1st and extending through February. This would give plenty of time to adjust dates, potentially allow early enrollees and NFL prospects the chance to play, while also maintaining season integrity.
It makes sense why Day would spearhead this idea too. With the Buckeyes ranked second in the preseason Coaches’ Poll, he and his players want to win it all. Having only one year of star quarterback Justin Fields likely plays into his cause too. Yet his plan makes sense.
Sure, teams would have to play in frigid temperatures or find a nearby domed facility to play, but it is the best course of action for everybody. It gives every player a chance to play, if they want to, while also protecting their bodies from two full seasons in a shortened calendar year.
“We’ve got some work to do. I don’t know the answer, but I’m going to fight like heck for these guys to push for what we think is right. There will be some back and forth and conceding some points, but as I sit here right now, I feel pretty strongly about what I’ve said and I’m going to work hard to get it done.”Ohio State coach Ryan Day on pushing for a winter season
Day’s, and even Brohm’s, leadership is exactly what the Big Ten needs right now. With new commissioner and former Vikings executive Kevin Warren and most university presidents screwing the pooch on each athletic decision, they should incorporate those actually playing and coaching into their meetings.
I am absolutely on board with a winter season. While it is worse than playing in the fall and watching the other conferences play on without a likely hitch, it is better than seeing top talent succumb to piss-poor decisions. It will give fans of the most prestigious conference in the country something to warm those cold winters.
Cancelling fall sports will take a toll physically and mentally on our student athletes. How heavily did that weigh into conversations with the Big Ten heads?
I asked and here is how Gabel and Coyle answered #Gophers: pic.twitter.com/8qvu1O9UGr— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) August 12, 2020
How Do the Gophers Line Up?
The Gophers would benefit from this plan too. If they chose to move indoors, the Vikings would likely be willing to offer US Bank Stadium as an option. But even if they had to play at TCF Bank Stadium, the opportunity to potentially have fans and to play nullifies having to play in freezing weather. These players want to play, damn it!
This plan also allows for those players who may be under-the-radar for the NFL to make a statement. Look at the Gophers’ Tyler Johnson and Antoine Winfield Jr. or LSU’s Joe Burrow last year. They were all arguably NFL talents, and if they were, it was to be as projects or roster depth to start. But after putting up spectacular seasons, it shot them up the boards. Which led to Johnson being drafted in the fifth round, Winfield Jr. in the second, and Burrow as the first overall pick.
While the 2020 Gophers are more of a household name after their 2019 campaign, the likes of and Tanner Morgan and others would have one final opportunity to impress scouts and better their futures.
Questionable Decision Making
What is even more baffling is the data they used to make the cancellation decision. The Big Ten cited ten players known to have underlying conditions that could be impacted by the pandemic. Yet as I mentioned previously, those players can opt-out and leave the young, healthy, and hungry players to carry on. Even with older coaches, other leagues have found ways to protect those most vulnerable. So why can’t the Big Ten?
A winter season makes too much sense. But so did a fall season. Yet a lack of facts and transparency has ruled the day for the Big Ten. This has allowed for fear and misplaced judgments to postpone one of the most anticipated sports years in history.
That’s before you even get into the jobs lost and millions, even billions, of dollars lost. If you think that won’t effect lives, then you’re not being honest. The fight isn’t over yet (for winter football), but knowing how stubborn university presidents are, it is likely to be a bloodbath.
Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan