Fans, parents, players, and now U.S. President Donald Trump; the list of people calling on Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren to bring back football is growing by the day.
The president on Tuesday tweeted that he had a “very productive conversation” with Warren Tuesday morning about the prospects of restarting the fall 2020 season for Big Ten programs. The league announced its intention to postpone the fall season with the hopes of playing sometime in the spring on Aug. 11.
“Would be good (great!) for everyone,” Trump tweeted. “On the one yard line!”
This comes after a weekend in which the president was openly critical of the conference, taking aim at the Big Ten’s decision during a campaign speech in New Hampshire on Friday, though it isn’t the first time the president has publicly addressed the decision of leagues to postpone the football season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the players in the league, he said “These are young strong guys–they’re not gonna be affected by the virus…These are big, strong guys. They will be just fine.”
Trump, according to Pac-12 insider Jon Wilner, has not yet reached out to the Pac-12, who made the exact same decision the Big Ten did.
The Big Ten confirmed the call Tuesday afternoon, saying a representative from the White House reached out to the league office on Monday.
“On Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, Commissioner Warren and the President had a productive conversation,” the Big Ten said in a statement. “The Big Ten Conference and its Return to Competition Task Force, on behalf of the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, are exhausting every resource to help student-athletes get back to playing the sports they love, at the appropriate time, in the safest and healthiest way possible.”
Lettermen Row, an Ohio State-focused site, reported Tuesday that the call between Trump and Warren centered on testing and the Big Ten obtaining some of a recently purchased stockpile of rapid tests developed by Abbott Labs, a 15-minute, $5 test.
The new, cheaper, saliva-based tests could be the key that unlocks the door back to the Horseshoe and stadiums around the conference. And the White House might be willing to assist in that effort by potentially designating part of its supply to the Big Ten after buying 150 million rapid tests last week from Abbott Laboratories. It’s unclear exactly how that distribution would be handled or precisely how many tests the Big Ten would need at this point, but Trump was expected to discuss that situation with Warren after previously making it clear he wants to see the richest league in the country back on the field.
In a letter published in August, Warren reiterated that the Big Ten’s decision to postpone its season would not be revisited, however in recent weeks pressure has mounted on the league from multiple directions.
A lawsuit filed in a US District Court in Lancaster County by eight Nebraska football players sought information related to the Big Ten’s decision-making processes. And on Monday, in response to that suit, the Big Ten revealed in court filings there was in fact a vote taken by its Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) and that vote was 11-3 in favor of postponing the season. The holdouts were Nebraska, Ohio State and Iowa.
That jibes with what UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green said on the record on Aug. 19 when he said there “absolutely was a vote” and though it was not unanimous there was overwhelming support for postponement. Green is Nebraska’s representative on the COP/C. His comments contradicted what the players’ lawsuit asserted.
Under consideration now, according to multiple reports, is a fall/winter Big Ten season that would begin around the time of Thanksgiving. Nebraska head coach Scott Frost, who is currently serving on the league’s newly created Return to Competition task force, is reportedly one of five head coaches pushing for the Thanksgiving start.
Trump wants football to start immediately, though. The first college football game of the season—Austin Peay vs. Central Arkansas—took place this past Saturday and UCA reported zero positive coronavirus tests after the game.
His call with Warren comes just a few days after Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden ran an ad suggesting Trump is to blame for football not being played in some areas. The ad features empty football stadiums in several Big Ten towns and ends with a saying: “Trump put America on the sidelines. Let’s get back in the game.”
Donald Trump put our nation on the sidelines. Let’s get back in the game. pic.twitter.com/e8VsW5IsNi
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 28, 2020