Photo via Athlon Sports

Report: The Big Ten is considering a Thanksgiving week start to its football season

When we last heard from Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren, he indicated that playing fall sports would not be revisited.

Based on a report today by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Warren and the league are in fact reconsidering.

Sort of.

In the report, Jeff Potrykus indicated that a new late fall timeline is under consideration as a result of continuing pressure by players and their parents and improving COVID-19 testing alternatives.

“According to two college football people familiar with the Big Ten, those talks have generated a new option, starting a Big Ten season of at least eight games the week of Thanksgiving,” the Journal Sentinel report said.

Previous reports had suggested that the league was considering an early January start with games held in dome stadiums around the Midwest.

This latest alternative would seem to use that same approach, only moved up on the calendar around six weeks earlier.  The league could continue to use the January start as a backup plan.

As we developed this story, it broke that the Big Ten coaches were meeting about the possibility of playing later in the fall.

Warren, the Big Ten and the school presidents have been under constant pressure since announcing their decision to postpone fall sports.  This week eight Nebraska football players filed a lawsuit against the league.

As we wrote last week, the recent emergence of real-time testing alternatives, including saliva tests, changes the thinking when it comes to player safety.

Just yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval for another testing option.  Abbott Labs’ rapid antigen test is expected to cost $5 and the results should be available in just 15 minutes.

The Abbott and saliva tests are expected to be widely available by November.

Indiana head basketball coach Archie Miller sees the availability of real-time testing as a game-changer for moving forward with sports.

“The breakthrough with the saliva test is big,” Miller said.  “Relatively bringing safe teams to the floor and being able to complete a game with two teams that are healthy at that time — that changes the game.”

When it comes to playing Big Ten football, it appears that the game is in fact changing.

The late November window is also emerging as a key start date for college basketball.  CBS’ Sports’ Jon Rothstein reported on Thursday that the week of Thanksgiving or the following week have become likely starting points for the 2020-21 campaign.

Many schools, including IU, are moving to a virtual classroom format beginning the week of Thanksgiving, and continuing well into January.

With the students off campus, college athletes would have a situation that resembles the bubble format that has worked well in the NBA and other sports.

While nothing is certain in this pandemic environment of course, there is now at least some optimism for the return of IU athletics sooner than later.

For college sports fans, a more than eight month wait might turn into a bonanza, with football and men’s basketball perhaps starting at around the same time.

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