Nebraska president teases possible Big Ten restart, before walking back comments
The Big Ten presidents and chancellors, deliberating the past several days about the status of fall sports, could be ready to give the season another shot.
And the latest hint toward a move came Tuesday morning courtesy of a hot mic.
Just before a press conference in Lincoln, Nebraska, that was planned to announce Nebraska’s research deal for the school’s National Strategic Institute, president Ted Carter was caught on an open microphone on KETV, the ABC affiliate in Omaha, telling another person the Big Ten will soon announce the return of football this fall.
“We're getting ready to announce Husker and Big Ten football tonight,” Carter said.
Soon after the press conference, KLKN TV, the ABC affiliate in Lincoln posted an interview with Carter where he attempted to walk back what was overheard.
"I think that was picked up a little out of context," Carter said. "All I said is there's work going on and remain cautiously optimistic, like everybody else, that we'll get to discovering when it's safe to play."
The Big Ten has not publicly announced any decision is forthcoming.
The conference first announced a postponement of the fall seasons, including football, on Aug. 11. The vote at that point was apparently 11-3 to postpone with Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa voting to play, though multiple presidents said there was no traditional vote, but rather a consensus. Late last week and early this week, the conference's 14 presidents and chancellors met to review updated medical data and, according to Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank, view multiple proposals for a possible football season.
No vote was held Sunday and Monday passed with little more than a peep coming from Big Ten offices, other thank Blank saying regardless of the which way the conference goes, the teams are all in it together. A season won't be held with some sitting out.
At least six of the conference’s presidents or chancellors would need to flip their original vote for a season to be approved.
Around the same time Carter was overheard in Lincoln, Blank was appearing at a U.S. Senate hearing on Name, Image and Likeness policy for college athletes. She was asked about the Big Ten’s pending decision but declined to say whether the conference was planning to announce a return to football. Blank did point out the original decision was based primarily on two medical concerns — the logistics of contact tracing and possible long-term effects from COVID-19, including myocarditis, a heart condition.
“I will say we're all going to move together in the Big Ten," Blank said during a teleconference Monday. “We're all going to play or not if we possibly can.
"This isn't going to be a school-by-school thing.”
Michigan and Michigan State, both with presidents who are infectious-disease experts in Drs. Mark Schlissel and Samuel L. Stanley, respectively, voted no last time. Neither has given any indication how they'll vote this time.
Asked to confirm Blank's comments that this will be an all-or-nothing proposition for the Big Ten, spokespersons for Schlissel and Stanley both declined to comment when reached by The News on Monday.
“The Big Ten Conference will handle any announcements,” a spokesman for Schlissel said in an email to The News.