As if August wasn’t a wild enough month for the Big Ten, it’s only the first day of September and the President of the United States is involved in the fallout of the conference’s decision to postpone all fall sports, the most notable of which is football.
Trump tweeted Tuesday morning he had a “productive conversation” with commissioner Kevin Warren in an effort to get the league to reverse course and bring back football this fall.
Had a very productive conversation with Kevin Warren, Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, about immediately starting up Big Ten football. Would be good (great!) for everyone - Players, Fans, Country. On the one yard line!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2020
The conference confirmed the call took place, also characterizing the conversation as productive.
Statement from the Big Ten regarding the call with the President: pic.twitter.com/nIsTSNYhFg— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) September 1, 2020
According to Austin Ward of Lettermen Row, the main point of the call was to discuss the availability of testing, which is believed to be a primary hurdle in making a season happen. The Big Ten has not divulged any details from the call. Trump reportedly signaled he may be willing to help the conference by allocating it some rapid tests from the national stockpile. The Trump administration last week announced a deal to purchase 150 million rapid tests from Abbott Laboratories. The tests read results in 15 minutes and don’t require lab equipment or a machine.
Of course, for all the ethical debates there have been about playing college football during this pandemic, the Big Ten receiving rapid tests from a government stockpile to play football while the country struggles to test adequately and schools attempt to reopen would only raise more questions. Other conferences are testing up to three times per week in-season, which include the use of rapid antigen tests.
Iif the White House has the ability to start giving out more rapid testing supplies, I can think of a few other places that probably ought to be ahead of Purdue Football on the ol' priority list.— Matt Brown (@MattBrownEP) September 1, 2020
Many have noted politics’ place in these developments, as Big Ten country contains many “swing states” in the upcoming November presidential election, namely Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and Iowa. It isn’t the first time Trump has called for football to be played, and it isn’t the first time he’s singled out the B1G. If he were to be able to help bring back football, it might help his favorability among the electorate in those states.
He has not mentioned the Pac-12, MAC or Mountain West in public statements. According to a Pac-12 source, the league had not received a call from the president about assisting them to revive their currently postponed season.
Disgraceful that Big Ten is not playing football. Let them PLAY!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2020
“I’ve been calling for football to be back, including Big Ten,” Trump said at a rally on Friday in New Hampshire. “Big Ten, get with it. Open up your season, Big Ten.”
The Big Ten had a less than stellar month after making the contentious decision to postpone the fall sports season on August 11. Many coaches, players, parents, politicians and some in the media have decried the move, or at least the messaging surrounding it. On August 18, Warren wrote an open letter to the Big Ten community, saying the decision to postpone the season would not be revisited.
There have since been multiple #WeWantToPlay demonstrations on campuses and one at Big Ten headquarters led by Randy Wade, father of Ohio State star cornerback Shaun Wade. Additionally, eight Nebraska players filed a lawsuit against the conference, seeking to reinstate the fall season. As part of the documents the league had to turn over, it came out the Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted 11-3 in favor of punting the season.
However, coaches and athletic directors tasked with developing models to return to play recently discussed starting a season as early as Thanksgiving weekend. Reports, at least up until now, have indicated the league prefers an eight-week winter season that begins early in January. Any decision, as is well known by now, doesn’t lie with them or Warren but with the same presidents who voted to postpone in the first place.
It’s unclear how quickly the Big Ten would be able to start a season if it was to change its mind, but teams are still permitted to conduct workouts during this time. The Council of Presidents of Chancellors meets regularly, and this item will surely be on the agenda.