Big Ten schools finalizing proposals to manage football season amid COVID-19

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — An optimist would say college football this fall won’t be affected by the COVID-19 virus.

The pessimist — or realist — would counter that not having any scheduling issues relative to the virus that has gripped the world for more than a year might be a bit foolish.

Kevin Warren

For the Power Five conferences, plans are being finalized for how things will be managed when the season kicks off in a little more than a month. The SEC has indicated teams might have to forfeit games if they are unable to play, while the Big 12 seems to already be committed to that idea.

According to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, each of the conference’s universities are finalizing proposals, which soon will be gathered to form a consensus on how the schedule will be managed.

“One of the things that we're working on right now is the fact that our schools are finalizing their proposed policies and procedures for the fall,” Warren said as Big Ten Media Days kicked off Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium. “We’ll get that information in early August, we’ll combine it, and then we'll get together with our chancellors and presidents and other key constituents to make the determination as far as how we handle the fall.”

Whether that means the Big Ten would force teams to forfeit if they are unable to play is unclear.

At last week’s Big 12 Media Days, Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor suggested there would be no flexibility to reschedule games.

 “If you don’t play it on time, you will have to forfeit,” Taylor said. “We haven’t finalized that yet as a league, but that is where our thinking is at as athletic directors. We don’t have room. Last year, we had breaks in our schedule on purpose. This year, we won’t have the ability to make up those games.”

A similar approach is taking place in the SEC, though nothing has been finalized.

“You hope not to have disruption, but hope is not a plan is the great cliché,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said this week. “You’re expected to play as scheduled. That means you team needs to be healthy to compete, and if not, that game won’t be rescheduled. And thus, to dispose of the game, the ‘forfeit’ word comes up at this point.”

Last season, only Penn State and Rutgers played all nine Big Ten games while there were 13 conference games canceled because of COVID-19. Those games were all considered a “no contest.”

Odds are, that won’t be the case this season as the Big Ten intends to play a 12-game schedule. The official policy, one that will be revealed soon, likely will mean if a team can’t make it on the field, they’ll essentially lose that game.

“One of the things I did learn last year is to make sure that we are methodical and thoughtful, that we bring people together,” Warren said. “So we're right where we want to be, that it will be a decentralized decision-making process. As soon as we gather all the information from our schools in early August, we'll finalize our policies … We will have that done prior to our first game.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau