Cancellation reversed: How the Big Ten Changed Its Mind and Decided to Play Fall Football


Lucy Schaefer

When the Big Ten conference postponed their 2020 fall football season on August 11, many were confident that the decision was not final and there would be a season in the fall. 

On August 10, the Big Ten announced they would open their fall season on Thursday, September 3rd, with a matchup between Illinois and Ohio State. However, the next day, that plan was demolished and the headline traveled nationwide in a matter of minutes. The Big Ten (and the Pac-12) had postponed their seasons, due to COVID, until further notice.

To get a better understanding of how the Big Ten received its happy ending, let’s go through the steps that were taken to give the conference a season. 

First off, when the decision went public on August 11, Big Ten teams and fans like me across the country were absolutely devastated. What players had worked so hard for for months was stripped away. Obviously, Big Ten commissioner, Kevin Warren, received not only major backlash but many questions. Why did you postpone the season?  A major factor of the anger of fans, teams, and players was that Warren did not provide anyone with a specific reason as to why they delayed play.

Second, it is important to understand that this decision was not taken lightly by coaches, players, and fans. Several actions were taken by all three groups to attempt to convince the conference into a revote. 

Leading the charge was the University of Nebraska. Cornhuskers were arguably the most outspoken facility relating to the postponement. Almost immediately after the conference’s announcement, Nebraska head coach Scott Frost began to look into moving into other conferences for the season. Along with this, several Nebraska players filed a lawsuit against the Big Ten on August 27th, claiming that “…the Big Ten is in breach of contract by not following its governing documents, under which athletes are third-party beneficiaries.”

Moving on to the Ohio State Buckeyes — the team we are most concerned about. Being one of the top football programs in the country, you’d better believe that Ohio State had something to say. Not only did CB Shaun Wade’s FATHER plan and participate in a peaceful protest outside the Big Ten headquarters, but QB Justin Fields also created a #wewanttoplay petition, receiving over 300,000 signatures. In addition, head coach Ryan Day posted a letter written to persuade the committee to change its mind and to let the players decide if they want to play. Fans have also gathered outside the stadium to rally for a season.

These teams were more than direct with their opinions, which emphasizes how much joy they felt when a revote was announced. Originally, Commissioner Warren stated that the topic would not be looked at again. However, with advances in rapid testing, which give results back within 15 minutes, the cause needed to be once again be discussed by Warren and college presidents. A vote was said to have occurred on Sunday, September 13th, but the official decision wasn’t announced until the morning of Wednesday, September 16th. 

All in all, the Big Ten made extreme progress from when they originally postponed to when they announced that their teams would be beginning fall football the weekend of October 24th. The original vote results, released on August 31, was 11-3 against playing fall football. The new vote’s results were not yet released, but “unanimous.” 

The new start date for the conference gives teams the opportunity to compete for a national championship, which was in jeopardy when options for a spring or winter season were being discussed. In the end, the Big Ten got their happy ending, with teams and college presidents beyond excited to get the opportunity to play fall football and compete for a national championship. Be sure to catch your favorite Big Ten football team as they open their season on Saturday, October 24th!