Big Ten: What changes led to conference’s decision to resume fall football season?

Big Ten: What changes led to conference’s decision to resume fall football season?
Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith (FILE/STAFF PHOTO)

COLUMBUS — As the sports world continues to react to the news of the Big Ten Conference resuming their fall football season in October, one question has been asked by many.

What changed during the time between the conference postponing and then resuming the season?

Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith was asked this question during a morning news conference, saying two key factors of structure within the conference and working with television partners went in the right direction for the conference to reverse course.

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“Things evolved, science evolved, we learned a lot. The emergence of rapid testing was critical," Smith said. “But what’s really critical was the structure we set up.”

Smith credited the Big Ten’s medical task force which allowed for all schools to discuss the unique challenges they faced to safely bring a season back. He added that even if the Big Ten would have started at a later date, like a winter or spring season, the same testing and safety protocols would have been necessary.

“Even in January we would have needed these protocols. But what evolved was sharing of information,” Smith said.

Smith added that having Dr. Jim Borchers, the Head Team Physician for Ohio State, as the co-chair of the Big Ten’s Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee, helped show the rest of the conference that protocols implemented by Ohio State could work across the conference.

“We were blessed to have Jim Borchers in that seat. I can’t emphasize that enough. Because we felt here at The Ohio State University we were doing things top of class,” Smith said.

The other part of the return to play puzzle, was working with the conference’s television partners to create favorable matchups that could lead to a Big Ten member to compete for a national championship.

“Moving to Oct. 23, 24, at the end of the day, allows us to have contests, that not only positions us for the College Football Playoff, but also gives us some opportunities with television that will be unique and different,” Smith said.

Part of the conference’s unique scheduling is the “eight plus one” schedule model that sees each team play eight scheduled games, and one final game on “Championship Week” that is based on seeding in the East and West divisions.

Smith said the conference listened the the voices of parents, coaches, and players who expressed the desire to play, including those who led various protests at Big Ten schools and at the conference headquarters. However, the athletic directors were “driven” to address all the concerns, namely health concerns, expressed by the university presidents.