COLUMBUS — The Big Ten season is back from the dead.
And the national-title chances for Ohio State appear once again to be alive and well.
In a stunning reversal from the early-August decision to postpone the fall season and the doubling-down on that hasty move later in the month, the Big Ten presidents and chancellors approved a plan on Wednesday morning for the league to kick off its season in October following a weekend full of meetings to sort through all the issues.
The conference had faced heated criticism for its cancellation and the lack of transparency that produced its decision last month, with the five weeks filled with public pleas from coaches, multiple protests from some Big Ten families, a petition from Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields and a lawsuit from a handful of Nebraska players. Primarily, the issue boiled down to a question over why the league didn’t simply delay to buy itself more time to evaluate the pandemic situation that has changed dramatically since the Big Ten initially pulled the plug — with the availability of new, cheaper, faster, saliva-based tests for COVID-19 at the forefront.
That testing development was crucial in moving forward with a plan that is expected to feature games that are expected to start on the Oct. 24 weekend. Pete Thamel confirmed the news initially for Yahoo Sports, and Lettermen Row sources confirmed that football would return this season once again on Wednesday.
Full details on the format and plan for the Big Ten are expected to be revealed by the league on Wednesday morning.
That was just one part of the new proposal from the Big Ten Return to Play task force that was presented to a small group of league decision-makers on Saturday before it was brought to the entire group of presidents and chancellors on Sunday. The Big Ten also heard pitches on how the schedule could be constructed in order to allow the league to participate in the College Football Football and satisfy broadcast partners, two key components to the effort to get back on the field in October instead of later with plans that included starts in November or January.
Getting rolling next month was a priority for hundreds of people across the league, but it might have the greatest upside for a historically-talented Ohio State team that has legitimate national-title aspirations. The entire program played an active role in trying to safely bring football back during this calendar year, with Ryan Day relentlessly fighting for his team in both public and private and the renowned medical staff of the Buckeyes methodically addressing the health and safety protocols. The Buckeyes were joined by Nebraska and Iowa in pushing for a delay during the failed first vote, but those schools and influential figures like Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez kept the conversation alive in time to salvage a scaled-back season.
The process certainly wasn’t smooth, and there still promises to be complications along the way once the season actually starts. But the Big Ten is officially committed to trying, and both the league and the Buckeyes are now once again roaring back to life.
This is a developing story, and Lettermen Row will continue to have updates as the return-to-football plan comes into focus.