Big Ten Conference coaches, athletic directors and medical personnel are working on multiple plans for staging a football season—including one that would have the league kicking off as soon as Thanksgiving weekend.
The conference is in the early stages of a complicated process that also involves broadcast partners and possible neutral site venues, a person with direct knowledge of the conference’s discussions told The Associated Press.
The person spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because the Big Ten was not making public its efforts to have a football season that starts in either late fall or winter. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported the Big Ten was considering a possible Thanksgiving start to the season.
The Big Ten announced on Aug. 11 it was postponing its fall football season because of concerns about playing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pac-12 and some smaller conferences soon followed suit.
The Big Ten and first-year commissioner Kevin Warren have faced push back and criticism ever since, including a lawsuit filed by eight Nebraska players who want the decision overturned.
Any plan will need the approval of university presidents and chancellors, and the Big Ten will only play if certain benchmarks related to the coronavirus—such as transmission rates, testing capacity and availability, and testing accuracy—are met in each of the 11 states that are home to the league’s 14 schools.
“If they are met, that’s when they’ll get back,” the person told AP.
Several coaches, including Ohio State’s Ryan Day, have already said the sooner the Big Ten can start a delayed season the better. Day has endorsed starting in early January and that is being considered, the person said.
One option includes playing games at domed stadiums across the Midwest, including in Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Detroit, another person with knowledge of the discussions told AP on condition of anonymity.
The person said using neutral sites could help broadcast partners televise the games and help avoid potential complications of playing through winter weather.