The Big Ten may have football sooner rather than later after all. According to multiple reports, including those from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and ESPN, the conference is now eyeing a potential start date around Thanksgiving weekend. Early January also remains an option, with coaches telling ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg that their priority is not altering the 2021 fall season.
National writers Bruce Feldman of The Athletic and Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports followed up the initial reports with confirmation.
SOURCE: Big Ten coaches are meeting on a call right now. Am told "it's a real possibility" that the Big Ten may try to reverse course and play later this fall. https://t.co/lbZJePwUbG
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) August 28, 2020
Big Ten athletic directors have been working on a new plan since Aug. 11 when the conference initially postponed fall sports. That plan—or a number of options—will then be brought to the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force, which had yet to meet as of midweek.
“We've not formally met yet,” UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green told Hail Varsity earlier in the week. “We haven't had that kickoff yet formally for that conversation, but I know the ADs across the conference have been working since August 11 when the decision was made to postpone to answer what we will look like in a January-going-forward timeframe. That includes soccer, cross country, volleyball, football that are so important to us."
Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos, who serves on the subcommittee of the task force, shared during his monthly Sports Nightly appearance that he hoped “Plan B” would be ready in the next couple of weeks. He acknowledged that there was still much to be sorted out on that front.
If the Big Ten is able to move forward with a season much sooner than anticipated, it may be partially due to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granting emergency approval for a rapid antigen test designed by Abbott Labs. The test is expected to cost $5 and produce results in approximately 15 minutes without being sent to a lab.
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told USA Today Sports how impactful that could be.
“We thought that potentially could be an answer for us,” Alvarez said. “If we had a saliva test that we could get back within an hour. Heck, we could have our guys do their test, go in and have breakfast and they’d have an answer before they went to practice and we could have a clean practice field.”
Eight Nebraska players filed a lawsuit on Friday against the Big Ten Conference, seeking a reversal by the Big Ten on its decision to postpone the fall sports season. The lawsuit also asked for clarity on how the conference made its decision to postpone fall sports. One day later, it seems those players—and all of the Big Ten—may have an answer soon.
Right now, there are still 36 FBS games scheduled for Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. That includes rivalry games the War on I-4 (Central Florida at South Florida), the Egg Bowl (Mississippi State at Ole Miss) and the Iron Bowl (Auburn at Alabama).