President Trump tweeted Tuesday, saying after a productive call with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, the football season was ready to “immediately” start again.
But a new report from Pete Thamel says football fans may want to curb their excitement.
“To say multiple sources denied the notion of the Big Ten playing immediately would not be strong enough,” Thamel reported. “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.”
Even without sources, it seems unlikely that the return of Big Ten Football is on the ‘one-yard line’ given that the University of Iowa announced just one day prior to Trump’s tweet that they were pausing all athletics due to 93 people testing positive for COVID-19 in one week out of 815 total tests. To save you a quick calculation, that’s an 11.4 percent positivity rate for that week.
According to Thamel, medical experts within the Big Ten still need to be convinced that the conference can keep student athletes safe before they sign off on a season. Thamel also reports that part of Warren’s conversation with Trump revolved around the Big Ten’s access to rapid COVID-19 testing. Would that be enough for the experts to sign off on football? It’s impossible to know, but it seems like it would be an important part of any return to play plan.
So why would Trump say all of this? Some write off this rhetoric as simple campaigning, since Trump decided to focus his attention on the Big Ten, rather than the other conferences who have postponed their seasons -- the Pac-12, MAC and Mountain West. All you have to do is take a look at the electoral map to understand why, as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania all project to be battleground states in November. Compare that to the Pac-12, where only Arizona projects to be a battleground.
In the end, Thamel says the most-likely return date of Big Ten football would be January, at the earliest. Until then, student-athletes and fans alike will have to wait unless the nation’s COVID-19 outlook improves.