On August 11th, the universities that comprise the Big Ten voted to postpone the fall football season by a vote of 11-3. After that vote, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren applauded the decision to protect student-athletes. While he acknowledged that this would be a blow to fans and athletes alike, he also left the door open for a possible return before the assumed spring start date for the season with the following statement.
“Everyone associated with the Big Ten Conference and its member institutions is committed to getting everyone back to competition as soon as it is safe to do so."
As soon as it is safe to do so?
As we look upon the disaster that has become the Big Ten season, those words fail to even ring hollow due to the amount of bullshit they are smothered by.
A whopping seven games have been canceled since the conference returned to play on Oct 23rd. That doesn’t count the non-conference games each team gave up before the season even started, only games scrapped due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
The cherry on top of the smelly, brown sundae is that the only truly great team in the conference might not even be eligible for the Big Ten title game due to the number of games they are likely to miss. Per the Big Ten’s own rules, teams must play at least six games to be eligible for the conference title game. It is quite likely Ohio State won’t make that bar because of their ongoing outbreak. The possible omission of a stacked Ohio State team from the College Football Playoff was a large part of why the conference rushed back in the first place. Well, that and the money the Big Ten would rake in from it, at least. No Big Ten title game means no national title hopes and no national title money.
The most important aspect, but somehow the most scantly discussed aspect of all of this is the simple fact that scores of players and coaches have now tested positive for a disease that has the potential to kill them now and maim them later.
As safe as it is do so?
The entire NCAA is to blame for allowing this farce of a season to even take place, but that in no way diminishes the blame that should be pinned squarely on the donkeys running the Big Ten. In August, the Big Ten did the right thing. It did the hard thing, putting public safety ahead of football, unlike the ACC and the SEC who have staggered through this season from the jump all the while allowing fans into the stands. But we always knew the south was never going to put public health before football, not with governors like DeSantis and Kemp screaming ‘All Is Well’ through the melee better than Kevin Bacon ever could.
It took a month for the money to change things. If I sound cynical, be honest with yourself, what other excuses can be made for the Big Ten’s cowardly backtracking on postponing fall sports? The Big Ten (and Pac 12, who have had a slightly less disastrous return to play) saw the other three members of the Power Five playing football and being applauded by the sports media landscape for doing so. It also saw the money those conferences were making. Forget the gate, forget the concessions. The reason the Big 12, ACC, and SEC never even paused to consider postponing play was because their eyes had turned into Looney Toons-style dollar signs from all the TV money they were contractually obligated if they managed to play the majority of their schedules.
Just two weeks into the college season, or in medical terms, the amount of time needed for an outbreak of COVID to really take hold, the Big Ten had those dollar-sign eyes too.
The school leaders and the Big Ten decision-makers deserve the embarrassment of this quagmire they have willingly leaped into. There is real schadenfreude in watching this season sink straight into hell only a month after it was resumed, with possibly nothing to show for it. We have to remember though, this disaster has very real human costs. Thankfully, no players or coaches have died directly from the disease yet. But long term heart, lung, and brain conditions loom in the near future for countless people who have been infected for the sake of schools making a buck. These lingering conditions are poorly understood, as is to be expected from a novel virus such as COVID-19. But they are there, and the full breadth of their scope could be catastrophic. The chances of a student having a stroke, heart attack, or asthma attack and dying on the field next season have risen substantially.
As safe as it is to do so?
Safe? I wouldn’t trust this governing body with a pair of safety scissors, let alone the life of a loved one. The Big Ten deserves to suffer for this shitshow. But they won’t, not really. As is usually the case with college athletics, we all know who will do the brunt of the suffering.