It looks like the Big Ten Conference could be playing football this year after all. According to ESPN, the conference is looking to start the football season on Thanksgiving weekend. It's one of the few options that are up for discussion and comes weeks after the Big Ten announced it would postpone football and fall sports for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Big Ten has taken some criticism for its decision to postpone football, especially with fellow Power 5 Conferences, the SEC, ACC and Pac-12, moving forward with playing conference-only schedules. Also, the college football season officially begins on Saturday when Austin Peay takes on Arkansas State. Last week, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said the league had formed a return to the competition task force, which will take a look at alternate options for football and the other fall sports.
When the Big Ten decided to call off fall sports, the plan was to have those sports return in the spring. "It may be a little earlier, but around January," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said to ESPN. "We may try to start earlier. We're talking to all of the TV people, trying to get all of the information and see what fits. We still have to go through our chancellors and presidents to OK it." Alvarez also told ESPN that playing in the winter is the conference's focus. That means indoor venues such as Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis could be used for football games.
If the Big Ten does start playing games in November, it should make the players happy. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields was so upset with the Big Ten postponing football, he started a petition which has earned over 300,000 signatures. Fields understood the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic but didn't want the league to take their right to play football.
"We want to play," Fields wrote in the petition. "We believe that safety protocols have been established and can be maintained to mitigate concerns of exposure to COVID-19. We believe that we should have the right to make decisions about what is best for our health and our future." The Pac-12 is the other Power 5 conference to push back fall sports. According to Sporting News, 76 of the 130 FBS schools are set to play football this fall.