Garrett Nelson-Nebraska Football waits on the defensive line for the play to start
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Spring Football Proposal Could Impact Big Ten’s Return-to-Play Talks

September 18, 2020

When will football teams in the Big Ten be able to play football? That’s still unclear, but there’s a potential end date now—April 17.

The Football Oversight Committee included that as part of its recommended spring football model for those conferences that have chosen to postpone their fall seasons. In addition to the end date, the Committee recommended an eight-game season spread over a maximum of 13 weeks in the spring and allowed for 15 practices over a 29-day period.

The next NCAA Division I Council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 16, at which point it is expected to vote on the proposal. The Committee, which includes voting members from each FBS conference, also recommended extending the recruiting dead period to the end of October and eliminating the fall evaluation period altogether.

This has some potential implications for the Big Ten, which opted to postpone its fall season along with the Pac-12, Mid-American and Mountain West conferences. The 15-practice allotment, the same number of practices teams get for spring football, would only apply to schools playing their entire schedules in the fall or spring. If the Big Ten started its season in late-November, as some reports have suggested, and the season spilled over into 2021 those schools would not be able to hold spring practices.

“If you’re using your 13 weeks in both terms, then you don’t get fall ball or spring ball,” West Virginia Athletic Director Shane Lyons, the Committee chair, told ESPN.  “You don’t get your cake and eat it, too.”

That recommendation, along with the April 17th end date, was the Committee’s attempt to address safety concerns over playing two seasons in one calendar year. Whether its 15 spring practices or an eight-game season, or both, wrapping by late April would essentially get teams back on a traditional offseason schedule in preparation for fall of 2021.

Teams that aren’t playing this fall are currently allowed 12 hours of workouts, including five hours of on-field practice in helmets only. Schools in conferences that are playing are allowed the standard 20 hours per week.

If the Council approves this proposal, the Big Ten and others appear to have three choices: play in the fall and preserve a traditional spring practice schedule, play eight games in the spring and get a month of practice time or a winter season played over two semesters which would eliminate spring practices.

Rumors of an Oct. 10 start date for the Big Ten have persisted this week. That date was first reported by Dan Patrick, though Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos told Hail Varsity on Sept. 1 it was merely a rumor, confirming an initial report from Parker Gabriel of the Lincoln Journal Star. Yet rumors and reports continued on Thursday that the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) was close to a revote on an October start date, perhaps as early as Friday.

Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta told Scott Dochterman of The Athletic that it would take a “miracle” for Big Ten football to be played in October, though he didn’t rule out a late-fall start.

Iowa, along with Nebraska and Ohio State, was one of three schools that voted to play this fall according to multiple reports. The Big Ten stated in a court filing this week that the COP/C vote was 11-3 in favor of postponing.

The Football Oversight Committee’s spring proposal, if approved, would give conferences sitting out some additional factors to consider as they work towards getting back on the field in the months ahead. Moos, Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie Green and head coach Scott Frost are all part of various committees working on the Big Ten’s return to play.

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