If you've been paying attention at all, there are two versions of reality in regards to the Big Ten's postponed football season. These two realities are quite different, but they're really intertwined.
Below the surface, you can go as far down the rabbit hole as the earth goes. We entered the Realignment Twilight Zone a while ago, and in that reality secret votes are being held, the White House is supplying the Big Ten with tests, and Michigan president Mark Schlissel is on the verge of being fired. (Yes, really.) In this reality, it's only a matter of time before the marshal of the Supreme Court gets involved.
And then you can climb above the surface where there's... nothing. Sure, there's no shortage of people urging, begging or demanding action -- everyone from the President, to various state politicians, to Jim Harbaugh have gotten involved. But as for any actual movement as to getting Big Ten football players to line up across from other Big Ten football players, it's radio silence. In fact, even suggesting as much will get you laughed at by Big Ten insiders.
To say multiple sources denied the notion of the Big Ten playing immediately would be strong enough. The sources heartily laughed at it. The notion of playing around Thanksgiving is in embryonic discussion, and there’s a desire among coaches to start as early as possible. But “immediately” is in another universe, especially with multiple Big Ten teams not even having players on campus right now.
It may seem like these realities are in conflict with each other, and they are, but one is born from the other. In the absence of information, disinformation blooms.
Friday will be a month since the Big Ten postponed its season, and since then the conference has accomplished.... nothing. No enhanced practice procedures (those are the NCAA's job, and they're coming soon), no skeleton of what a winter/spring season could look like, no standard of what benchmarks would have to bet met for a season to happen. The Pac-12 has a daily testing partner coming soon, the ACC, SEC and Big 12 have football coming soon, and the Big Ten has.... what?
So it's no surprise that an alternate reality was born. It's happened in plenty of other facets of society, so why not college football?
And now we got a merging of the two realities, sort of.
If you're into hopeful comments from the Ohio State athletics director delivered second-hand through the governor of Ohio, well, this is the story for you.
On Tuesday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine told the press that he spoke with Ohio State AD Gene Smith, who told him, allegedly, "there is a decent chance of there being a season in football for the Big Ten and for Ohio Sate, which is what we’re really concerned about.”
He continued: “(Smith) said it was still in play — still very much a possibility... The key was always going to be how it was done.”
Pressed for specifics, the Ohio state government and The Ohio State University engaged in a maddening game of hot potato. From the Cleveland Plain-Dealer:
Ohio State referred a request for confirmation of the call to the governor’s office, which declined additional clarification or comment on DeWine’s remarks. DeWine did not specify what time period he and Smith discussed, if any, for a possible resumption of football games.
Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson also appeared on the governor’s press conference Tuesday. While Johnson serves on the Big Ten’s return to competition task force, she did not discuss football or other sports with DeWine. Instead, she discussed at length the testing results since the school reopened to in-person instruction last month.
So there you have an official person, the governor of Ohio, alluding to movement happening behind the scenes. Then when the press tries to get an idea of what's going on behind the curtain, everyone involved becomes mute. This is all cat nip for conspiracy theorists.
One of the storylines hanging over Big Ten country right now is that, yes, a lot of people are publicly mad, but even more groups are screaming with their silence. Michigan State, Rutgers, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, and the like have been conspicuously silent throughout all this. Presumably, if, at any point over the past month, enough minds changed that nine schools were now in favor of playing football, the Big Ten would be on the path to playing football.
But they're not. That will remain the case until it isn't.
All the while, though, it's understandable why Ohio State remains the most visibly angry about the canceled season. It's not that they love football more than anyone else in the conference -- though, let's be real here, they probably do -- it's that the Cleveland Browns, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cincinnati Bearcats, and the state's high schools are all playing, and the Buckeyes are not. It's that plus the fact that Ohio State fully expected to win a national title this year. And it's all of that plus the fact that the governor alludes to the possibility of football's return, only for everyone to go mum afterward.