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Big Ten presidents could find themselves stuck between their conscience and reality

The much-anticipated Big Ten re-vote could go down today and, based on the reporting around the conference, it feels more likely than not that the conference returns to action next month.

For the purposes of this piece, let's assume that the conference approves the motion to revive its 2020 football season. Let's also assume that the vote is not unanimous.

If you're one of those Big Ten presidents who votes unsuccessfully to keep the fall football season dead and in the ground, what do you do?

Northwestern, whose president Morton Schapiro chairs the Big Ten's Council of Presidents/Chancellors, won't have freshmen or sophomores on campus for the fall semester. Michigan State asked all students to quarantine through Sept. 26. Just today, Maryland began hosting 15 percent of undergraduate courses online. Rutgers is trying to get to 50 percent... by January.

Maybe the Big Ten's medical committee's presentation was so persuasive that the presidents of those universities -- all of whom voted against a fall season one month ago -- feel comfortable staging a football season even despite the conditions described in the above paragraph.

But what if one, two, three or even all of those four don't believe playing football by October is possible or proper, but the return-to-play movement gets nine votes anyway? What then?

Dan Patrick reported on his show today that some schools may hold back while others press forward, but this runs counter to the other reporting surrounding the situation. It also runs counter to the current precedent, where only Old Dominion remains on the sideline among the six conferences playing or preparing to play right now.

Playing this season may go against a president's conscience and/or better judgment, but not playing could be a death penalty for that school's football program.

If the Big Ten plays this fall, that's it. They won't turn around and play again in the spring. And, based on the precedent of Nebraska's saber-rattling of playing a rogue schedule this fall, Big Ten teams aren't allowed to play a non-Big Ten schedule. Northwestern, for example, couldn't turn around and play a MAC schedule this spring, at least not according to the league's bylaws and Kevin Warren's public statements.

Sitting out the fall, or even the entire 2020-21 academic year, is a tough pill to swallow for any program, to be sure. But at least all 14 Big Ten schools choked it down together, even if Warren had to hold Nebraska and Ohio State's mouths shut like a dog taking heart worm medicine.

But if you're the only Big Ten program swallowing that pill? It's a stain your football program can't wash off. If you're sitting on the sideline while the rest of the conference is on TV every week? If your competitors are playing each week while your players go a full year without playing a game? It's competitively devastating for your football program.

Maybe a Big Ten president knows all this, so they feel compelled to press forward despite their own conscience telling them differently.

Or perhaps these presidents and chancellors are so far removed from the nuts-and-bolts consequences of the decision that it doesn't factor into their decision making. If so, woe be to those football programs.