Now that the big ten have a new scheduled kickoff weekend, coaches and players can start the sprint for the opening day.
Expect a wild ride.
After canceling spring football, restricting and sometimes stopping training out of season, closing practices with full contact and eventually postponing the season, the league’s 14 university presidents and chancellors have given teams five weeks to do what typically takes months – getting in shape in late October to the start of a very unusual season.
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“We will be ready to play on October 24,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said, referring to the new opening weekend. “You know, the ramp up to that and the 20 hours (with weekly practice), and it̵
Voice critics of the school leaders, who voted 11-3 to postpone all fall sports amid an August uptick in COVID-19 cases, have been largely silenced by the unanimous vote that put Big Ten football back on the calendar along with the ACC, Big 12 and SEC.
Those who play the sport teach the sport and see the sport almost universally expressed joy and relief on Wednesday, knowing that football is returning. Like the other conferences, however, Big Ten football will look different in many ways.
Stadiums will mostly be empty and tickets will not be sold to the public. The season has been reduced from 12 games to eight with the possibility of a ninth around the December 19 championship conference.
Players will undergo daily antigen tests before training, and if two tests confirm a positive result, the player must sit out 21 days before being cleared for game action. Those who contract COVID-19 must be cleared by a school-licensed cardiologist before returning. Teams will have backup plans if the head coach or an assistant becomes ill.
Not everyone follows the same script, either. Indiana University plans to conduct daily tests from Thursday. The league does not require it until September 30th.
And while everyone understands the guidelines and policies, coaches can spend more time over the next few weeks considering how to properly disinfect practice facilities, meeting rooms and locker rooms than designing game plans because the healthiest team could emerge as league champion.
“My first concerns were how do you meet, how do you train, how do you keep social distance during your training, but (also) in meetings and all the situations where you have close relationships?” Said Wisconsin athletic director and former football coach Barry Alvarez, who noted that he has been assured that it can be achieved. “For me, it was the hardest (part), this adjusted your players and coaches to a change in how you go about your daily routine.”
In the field, there are other risks such as damage.
While the ten major teams allowed teams to run and lift weights as well as perform light work in helmets for 12 hours a week over the past month, the intensity of full-contact practice will increase rapidly.
Purdue coach Jeff Brohm and Indiana coach Tom Allen are not planning to change much this week or next.
“I think the following week, on a Tuesday – right now I do not think it is set in stone – maybe the first day in shells,” Brohm said, referring to September 29. “Wednesday the following day may be our first day in pillows, although I do not know that it is completely set in stone. “
What else will be on the coaches’ plates? Discussions about travel and depth maps and playbooks. And some untraditional recruitment.
Day believes he can persuade offensive lineman Wyatt Davis and cornerback Shaun Wade to play after each previously said they would choose not to focus on their NFL hopes. Penn State narrow-minded Pat Freiermuth confirmed he plans to play, while Brohm plans to see if Rondale Moore, one of the league’s most electric players, possibly returns to the Boilermakers.
“We will support any decision he will make and the direction he will go,” Brohm said. “But yes, we will definitely look into it and see where it goes.”
Schedules will also look different.
By playing nine consecutive weekends, the big ten can finish in time to be in the playoff mix and bowl hunt. Friday night, broadcasts are likely to return, while traditional Thanksgiving weekend competitions like Michigan-Ohio State and Indiana-Purdue could find new dates. And then there’s the crossover ending against a Week 9 opponent yet to be determined.
“I have to give Jim Harbaugh (Michigan coach) great credit for being the one who came up with the idea,” said Allen. “We talked for a long time about how we decide who the ninth game is against whether it was a blind draw against someone from the other division. But he came up with that way of getting parity in the last game. It was here we came up with No. 7 player No. 7 and so on. “
But despite all the unknowns, all the fear and no time to waste, there is a unifying hope that it all goes smoothly.
“Our players will play, our coaches will train and our fans will watch,” said Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos. “We want to be able to do all these things now, so that’s why it’s a party. I think, and very strongly, that the state of Nebraska needs football. In the world I live in, football needs Nebraska. We will be able to deliver it and I am very excited. ”