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What date makes most sense for Big Ten season to kick off?

Ryan Day-Ohio State-Justin Fields-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State coach Ryan Day and quarterback Justin Fields want to play this fall. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

What date makes most sense for Big Ten season to kick off?

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the¬†potential of the Big Ten season starting in October? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

The month of October is back on the table for the Big Ten.

Is it the favorite in a battle of competing plans? Probably not. Is it a first-and-goal situation to make it happen? Definitely not considering just how much work remains to put all the pieces together, a process that will include everything from agreeing to the health and safety protocols to revamping the schedule — again.

But as the presidents, chancellors, athletic directors, coaches and medical personnel continue to meet this week, the Big Ten will have Oct. 10 as a potential target date to consider. Multiple sources confirmed to Lettermen Row that early October is believed to be a workable option from the football perspective, and additional sources across the league indicated that it would need to be considered if there is already potential presidential approval for playing in November or January.

The question continues to be raised in deliberations without a clear answer: What actually makes the Thanksgiving plan safer than the winter/spring slate in January? Now there’s a new sibling to that argument since it’s hard to tell how there’s truly any difference between starting games in November or October.

Kevin Warren-Big Ten-Big Ten commissioner

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren talked with President Trump this week about Big Ten football. (Thomas J. Russo/Imagn)

Now, here come the caveats. The presidents are almost impossible to predict with any confidence right now. It still remains a distinct possibility that no amount of protests, petitions and lawsuits from the 11-3 vote to postpone or the continued momentum in the SEC, Big 12 and ACC to play starting this month will change enough minds to get teams like Ohio State back on the field. All of those factors along with a better handle on campus life during the COVID-19 Era and the advancements and availability of cheaper, faster tests from the White House, though, do provide opportunities for reevaluation.

But it’s also important to note that it’s not presidents alone who might be hesitant to embrace a return to competition as early as next month. Despite some common belief that every Big Ten athletic director and coach is fully in support of playing this fall, multiple sources around the conference have indicated to Lettermen Row that simply isn’t the case. When it comes to coaching staffs, Ryan Day, Jim Harbaugh, Scott Frost and James Franklin have all obviously been outspoken in their desires to get back in pads as soon as possible. But anybody paying close attention will notice that public support of the players hasn’t been universal around the conference, and behind the scenes that has occasionally complicated the return-to-play planning since the league still plainly isn’t all working in lockstep toward the same goal.

More than anything, that’s an absolute shame for the players who have become grossly shortchanged in the conversation while being treated as little more than pawns. The option to opt out while retaining scholarships is clearly important, but that’s never really been in doubt. It’s much harder to understand how little their voice has mattered when they’ve tried to raise it and explain why and how they are willing to play — an opportunity that some have turned to the legal system to restore so they can compete this fall.

When could that happen at the earliest? The league is currently allowed to use 12-hour weeks to train, meet and do individual drill work, which isn’t enough alone to get ready to play again. But it does mean they would likely be ready to resume training camp at a moment’s notice, and allowing for a month of practices puts the circle solidly around Oct. 10 as a date that would allow for something resembling a full season with a chance to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.

There are still dozens of factors that must be considered, and it’s far more complicated than just snapping fingers and instantly deciding the season is back on. Game and broadcast schedules must be built with feedback from numerous partners, stadiums must be secured, decisions about the viability of playing for both players and programs must be made — and obviously a great deal of effort must be put into the health protocols. All of that will then still rely on the votes of a group of 14 presidents that had a majority last month that proved it was willing to make a hasty, unpopular decision.

October still shouldn’t be considered the front-running option at this point. But it wasn’t even a candidate as recently as Monday, and now it’s at least got a shot for the Big Ten.

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Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.