Big Ten takes step towards getting back in the game

One month and a day after the Big Ten postponed its football season, the conference took a step toward getting back in the game.

Things might move quickly now. And if they do, the Big Ten could be up and running by mid- to late October. An Oct. 17 start would give the conference space for an eight-game season in nine weeks. With that schedule, the Big Ten championship game could be played Dec. 19, which is the day before the playoff selection committee sets the field.

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The linchpin of a salvaged season after much drama and consternation is likely to be the conference’s ability to secure rapid, daily testing for its players.

The first couple of weeks of this season is showing how valuable that could be.

Games are being postponed left and right. An outbreak at Memphis this week led to its game against Houston next week being postponed. BYU announced Saturday night that it was postponing its game next week against Army.

Georgia Southern played without 33 players on Saturday, though the school said not all of those absences were related to COVID-19. Oklahoma had a severely depleted roster, too. Not that it mattered against Missouri State.

It’s not just players testing positive. It’s the contact tracing that lands players in quarantine for 14 days because they were deemed by health officials to have been too close to someone who was infected.

Testing every day means less time for a few positive tests to lead to numerous high-risk contacts.

The Big Ten has made a mess of its decision to postpone, not because it was necessarily the wrong decision. The conference leadership, including new Commissioner Kevin Warren, have failed to get all the stakeholders, from coaches to players to parents, on board. The conference totally lost control of its messaging and lacked the transparency needed to stand by its decision with conviction.

The Big Ten has allowed itself to become a political football.

After all that, it is very possible the conference could stumble into a fall football season that goes smoother than much of the rest of college football.