As of today, the college football season is officially underway… at least in some places.
Oklahoma and Kansas hit the field today in preparation of Week 0 games. Meanwhile, the season and the schedule on which it will run remains a fluid situation elsewhere. In the Big Ten, even the schedule to release the schedule is fluid.
On Thursday, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and Dr. Chris Kratochvil, chair of the conference’s task force for emerging infectious diseases and executive director of Nebraska’s global center for health security, sent a letter to all 14 Big Ten ADs laying out where the conference stands in regards to fall sports.
You can view the whole thing here, but the most important passage was this one, in regards to timing of the season:
We will not, and cannot, proceed with preseason camp until we are certain that we can do so safely and that will depend, in part, on testing. Once we have everything in place to execute our testing protocols effectively, including the appropriate number of tests secured for all fall sports, we can make a decision as to whether preseason camp will begin as currently scheduled. We anticipate making that decision within the next 5 days.
There’s also this, in regards to the league’s testing and safety protocols:
We will release our Big Ten Conference medical policies and protocols during the week of August 3, 2020. These protocols are being finalized by the Task Force with significant advisement from the Committee. Policies and protocols will include medical standardized testing requirements that will be consistently evaluated to ensure we are accounting for current medical recommendations. We believe that the implementation of these protocols will help us mitigate risk as we seek to safely resume athletic activity and competition.
Given that the Big Ten isn’t sure when it will approve the start of training camp, it’s no surprise the conference used that word again — “fluid” — as to when its conference-only season will begin.
Many options are under consideration within each sport, and we expect these updated schedules to be released in August 2020. While we remain hopeful for a start in September 2020, flexibility has been created within our scheduling models to accommodate necessary adjustments. Consistent with our collective need to be adaptable to changes in circumstances and evolving medical knowledge, even issuing a schedule does not guarantee that competition will occur.
That last sentence is sobering, and the Big Ten repeated that sentiment in the closing paragraph. “Though we remain hopeful to compete in a Conference-only schedule this fall,” the letter says, “we cannot guarantee that will happen.”
The challenge in front of them clearly stated, the Big Ten also assured ADs that it will do everything in its power to hold a fall sports season — not just in football, but every traditional fall sport.
“We know how much this matters and recognize that these years are often some of the most formative and impactful years of a student-athlete’s life,” the conference said. “What motivates us is giving the exceptionally talented young men and women in the Big Ten Conference the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and affording them the chance to compete at the highest levels of intercollegiate athletics.”