It was only on Aug. 11 that the league, which had already moved to a conference-only schedule, said it would not compete until at least 2021. In an interview that day, Kevin Warren, the Big Ten commissioner, said there was “too much uncertainty, too much risk” to proceed with athletics this year.
The Coronavirus Outbreak
Sports and the Virus
Updated Sept. 15, 2020
Here’s what’s happening as the world of sports slowly comes back to life:
- Fans can debate whether this season’s baseball records really count. But M.L.B.’s official historian insists the achievements are as real as any other.
- The Superdome in New Orleans had a dystopian feel as football returned without one of its most loyal congregations of fans. Oh, and Tom Brady flopped as the Saints beat the Buccaneers.
- The United States Tennis Association has no regrets about holding a U.S. Open without fans, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.
“You have to listen to your medical experts,” Warren said then. “There’s a lot of emotion involved with this, but when you look at the health and well-being of our student-athletes, I feel very confident that we made the right decision.”
Later, with the league under a barrage of public dissent from within its ranks and fans across the Midwest, Warren released an open letter that declared the decision would “not be revisited.”
That did not stop the league’s critics from trying to overturn the decision anyway. Parents of players protested outside the league’s offices near Chicago, some players pursued litigation and Ryan Day, Ohio State’s coach, issued a pointed statement last week that said “the communication from the Big Ten following the decision has been disappointing and often unclear.”
He added, “However, we still have an opportunity to give our young men what they have worked so hard for: a chance to safely compete for a national championship this fall.”
Even with some of its football programs pausing workouts because of outbreaks, Big Ten officials convened over the weekend as speculation intensified that the league would ease its posture.
By then, the season’s fate had even become a subject of the presidential campaign. Trump, facing attacks from his Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., who accused him of mishandling the pandemic and upending Big Ten football, called Warren on Sept. 1 to urge the league to play and to offer federal aid. On Wednesday morning, Trump greeted the announcement as “great news” and declared on Twitter that it was “my great honor to have helped!!!” (It was not immediately clear whether the Big Ten accepted any of the president’s offers of assistance.)