Somebody forgot to let the adults in the room when the Big Ten voted to play football

Ohio State’s Chase Young (left) battles Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater last season in Evanston. | Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Conference gives in to pressure, announcing it will start its season the weekend of Oct. 24, reversing an earlier vote to postpone the 2020 schedule.

Here’s a standard exchange between someone who is growing up and someone who is grown up:

Child: But everybody else is doing it!

Parent: That doesn’t make it right.

It’s an understandable sentiment from a young person who wants to fit in, and it’s a wise response from a parent who has a wealth of life experiences and a constant low level of terror regarding the welfare of their offspring. I wish a certain conference had followed its parental instincts and stuck to its guns.

The Big Ten, supposedly the adult in the room, gave in to pressure Wednesday, announcing that it will start its football season the weekend of Oct. 24, reversing an earlier vote to postpone the 2020 schedule. That makes the Big Ten like almost every other conference that chose something, anything, over health. Money? A welcome distraction during COVID-19? Entertainment value? Let’s go with money.

Not surprisingly, Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa were the prime movers behind getting the conference to reverse course. They live for college football in those states, and they weren’t going to let a silly, deadly virus deprive them of 20-year-olds ramming into each other on Saturdays.

Anyone who has the temerity to suggest that playing football in a pandemic is dangerous is viewed as a wimpy coastal elite with socialist tendencies. I guess I’ll have to wear that description along with my mask.

Public health experts have warned that a second, powerful wave of COVID-19 is coming soon. It’s not just about the players on each team staying safe during the season, which won’t be easy because they’re college students. It’s about all the other people with whom they might come in contact. Older people. Parents. Grandparents. Coaches. Trainers. Anyone with underlying health issues at the university.

I read the following two paragraphs from an ESPN.com story Wednesday and wondered if I had walked into a epidemiology jamboree instead of a football locker room:

The Big Ten’s daily rapid testing program will begin Sept. 30 on all 14 campuses. Test results must be completed and recorded prior to each practice or game. Student-athletes who test positive for the coronavirus through point of contact (POC) daily testing would require a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result of the POC test. Each Big Ten team will designate a chief infection officer to report data about testing to the league, which will make decisions about practice and competition based on team positivity rate and population positivity rate.

Football players who test positive for COVID-19 must wait at least 21 days to return to competition, as they will undergo “comprehensive cardiac testing” before being cleared by a cardiologist designated by each university primarily for that purpose. Concerns about myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle caused by viral infections like COVID-19, significantly contributed to the Big Ten’s initial decision to postpone the fall football season.

If reading that makes you feel safe, you must be an Ohio State fan. If it makes you think a football season might not be a good idea, you must a healthy, clear-thinking human being. Question: Will each player have his name and number on the back of his hazmat suit?

Just because the NFL and other big-time college conferences are playing football doesn’t mean the Big Ten should be.

Just because Big Ten football players now have a chance to impress NFL teams doesn’t mean the decision to play this season was the right one.

It’s difficult to look at any of this without seeing the influence of dollar bills. The TV money is huge. It’s great that some of the money goes toward helping other sports in the conference besides football. But is it worth it? Like a lot of issues associated with COVID-19, I guess we’ll find out.

The mother of a Division II football player who died of a blood clot in the heart after being diagnosed with the virus thinks she knows the answer.

“I’m very, very nervous for these young men and women,’’ said Kelly Allen, whose son had returned to California University of Pennsylvania to work out with teammates. “These kids, their lives are priceless. And it’s just not worth it. It’s not worth it.’’

Since the Big Ten made its initial decision to postpone, we’ve witnessed a lot of flip-flopping by the universities’ decision-makers, a lack of communication and leadership in the conference, and the insertion of President Donald Trump into the debate over whether to play. In a tweet Wednesday, Trump took some credit for getting the Big Ten season restarted: “It is my great honor to have helped!!!” It wasn’t exactly Iran releasing U.S. hostages after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president, but whatever.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Setting a good example often is hard. It can come with harsh criticism and hurt feelings. In this case, it was difficult to put aside the emotions of players and their parents. It would have been hard to say no to all that TV money.

But looking out for the health and welfare of others should have been the only goal. It’s what adults do.

Category Latest Posts