Aliyu Saadu|Staff Writer
Big Ten Conference college football made its return October 23 after initially announcing the postponement of fall sports in August due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The conference started its season in October instead of the traditional Labor Day Weekend with the 14th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers defeating the Illinois Fighting Illini 45-7.
“Great news today. Over the past month, I could sense the anticipation from our players and coaches, and I’m thrilled on their behalf that they will have a chance to play a 2020 season,” said Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh in an interview with ESPN. “Stay positive. Test negative. Let’s play football.”
After the Big Ten Conference announced on August 11th that fall sports were going to be postponed until further notice, the players started a petition led by Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields called #WeWantToPlay to get conference officials to reconsider their decisions. The petition had more than 300,000 signatures.
According to Morning Consult, 58% of college football fans and 62% of Big Ten fans support the conference’s return to play this fall. The petition and polls led to a conference meeting that resulted in reversing its decision to play football in the fall.
The conference adopted stringent protocols to control the spread of COVID-19 among student-athletes and staff. Players, coaches, trainers and other personnel on the field will have to go through daily antigen testing. If anyone tests positive for COVID-19, the earliest they can come back is 21 days after they test positive. If there are cancellations of a game because a team had an outbreak within the program, they have no way of making that game up.
“Our focus with the Task Force over the last six weeks was to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes. Our goal has always been to return to competition so all student athletes can realize their dream of competing in sports they love,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren on bigten.org, the conference’s website..
There will be no fans at any of the games except for family members or public ticket sales. Not having fans in attendance has an impact on game atmosphere, because players are used to being in an energetic and loud game environment.
“When we make a big play, we have to have that energy,” said Northwestern linebacker Blake Gallagher on si.com.. “That’s going to be more important than ever this year with the absence of the crowd.”
The return of Big Ten Football is significant for the players as well as the fans, because players will not have to sit on the season while the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 continue to play their season. Now, they put themselves in a prime position to be involved in the college football playoff picture.
It has been a long road for the Big Ten to return to playing football. The conference’s teams able to have a season after many people thought would be impossible. This will be the most unusual season in Big Ten history, which is 2020 in a nutshell, but Big Ten football is back.