Would the Big Ten start its postponed football season before 2020 is over?
According to multiple reports, coaches and athletic directors within the conference are discussing the possibility of beginning its season around Thanksgiving. That’s earlier than the Big Ten initially said it would start the season. When it announced that it was postponing the season two weeks ago, the conference said it was being pushed to the spring of 2021.
Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported that discussions about a late 2020 start to the season were in the early stages.
Sources: The Big Ten coaches and ADs are discussing multiple start dates for the season – Thanksgiving time, New Year’s Day, mid-January and post SuperBowl. Nothing has been decided or approved by the presidents or TV partners. This is early on in the process.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) August 28, 2020
The television angle Thamel notes is significant. While the Big Ten Network would be glad to show live football games, Fox and ESPN — the two networks that give the conference a significant chunk of its television revenue — would need to be on board with whatever plan the conferences comes up with. After all, the revenue that football brings in largely sustains athletic departments.
University presidents would also have to be on board with the decision to start earlier. School leaders — not athletic department leaders — were the ones that made the decision to postpone the season in August. And that decision came amid public pushback from coaches and players who wanted to begin the season near its scheduled start date.
Why would those in the Big Ten want to start earlier? Per ESPN, one of the biggest factors is the desire to not impact the 2021 fall season. A spring season that starts in March would have to be significantly abbreviated to give players an offseason to play a regularly-scheduled fall season a few months later.
If the Big Ten wanted to have a 12-week 2020 season that included 10 games for each team, a season that starts on Nov. 28 would go through Feb. 13. That would give teams seven months off between the pandemic-impacted season and a 2021 spring season that would, ideally, be able to be played as scheduled.
A 12-week season that begins in January — another reported option — would end no earlier than March 20. The conference has not officially said when its postponed spring season would begin. And it left open the possibility at the time of postponement that the season may not be played at all if the pandemic doesn’t improve.
Another reason fueling the possibility of start earlier could be more testing availability. The FDA approved a rapid test from Abbott this week that costs just $5 and can deliver test results in 15 minutes. Cheaper and quicker tests would allow athletic departments to test athletes frequently. And they would allow schools to test their students more frequently and potentially prevent coronavirus outbreaks from spreading throughout campus.
The Big Ten was the first major conference to postpone fall sports and the Pac-12 made its announcement to postpone fall sports shortly after the Big Ten did. Four of the 10 FBS conferences are not playing football this fall and just 76 of the 130 teams at the top level of football are currently proceeding with plans to play in 2020.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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