Posted on: September 29, 2020 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

The Big Ten Conference wanted no part of playing football this season. But after new COVID-testing possibilities were brought to conference officials, as well as pressure from disgruntled players who felt they didn’t have a voice in the decision, they actually changed their minds.

I don’t blame them, either. The coaches and athletes are itching to get back onto the field. If it is safe to play, why wait any longer to start?

Ethan Holesha

Managing Editor

With the opening date being Oct. 24, the conference is starting early enough to have a champion that can be eligible for the College Football Playoff.

However, that still has to be approved by the playoff’s management committee.

Recently, COVID-19 testing has improved dramatically, especially with the availability of the new rapid-testing programs.

During the summer specifically, a lot of Big Ten schools had many outbreaks. State restrictions for teams such as Illinois, Northwestern, and Rutgers are strict too, so they didn’t really expect to get around these restrictions.

The introduction of many reliable rapid-testing options began to ease concerns of spreading COVID-19 and hopefully this will keep the season from being interrupted, because with too many hiccups in the season, the Big Ten may find itself ineligible for the playoff.

As for the players that have already opted out of the season, if they don’t have an agent, they can come back and play. The NCAA was very clear that players would be able to opt out without any penalty to their eligibility or scholarships. This should be a no-brainer though, especially because of this crazy year.

If players do sign an agent however, things get a little sticky. They are technically ruled ineligible by the NCAA. I find this to be ridiculous. There is a Student-Athlete Reinstatement process that can help these specific athletes, but this shouldn’t even be needed. Especially with this unique situation, there should be a lot of exceptions made for these players.

I was able to talk with a few Big Ten football players from the University of Iowa: true freshman running back Leshon Williams and redshirt freshman defensive back Sebastian Castro.

“Our first 10 practices have been without pads to limit the amount of close contact,” says Castro. “Plus we have to bring a mask out onto the field.” Bonding has been a challenge too. “We can’t spend time with everybody. We can’t have team meals everyday like we used to,” he said.

A majority of these athletes have dreams of playing pro. Football is the main reason they went to this school. So when they can’t play, they feel helpless.

I asked Williams what he was looking forward to the most. “Really just competing against other teams,” he responded. These guys just want to play with their teammates more than anything else. Personal goals almost seem to be on the backburner right now, the players simply just want to play.

Daily tests will begin by Sept. 30. Anyone who is even on the field must take a daily antigen test. The NCAA is taking no chances with this. Results must be submitted before each game.

Athletes who end up testing positive must wait at least 21 days before they can play in another game. They must undergo “comprehensive cardiac testing” and also be cleared by a university-appointed cardiologist before coming back. And if 5 percent of the players on any team fail the test in the same week, then the program is shut down for at least a week.

This is definitely the right move, it’s way better to be safe than sorry. Especially in the case of this pandemic. Without these safeguards, all it would have taken is one player to spread the disease throughout the team. Next thing you know the whole season would’ve been canceled.

“We also have to hold ourselves accountable when we’re not inside the facility,” said Castro. “There is the strong temptation of going out with people, especially in a college town.”

This season is going to be a strong test of self-discipline. Players need to stay focused to stay safe. Staying indoors can literally save their careers. Say a starting player tests positive, in the three weeks he is gone he could lose his position and possibly never get it back.

That’s why following these guidelines is crucial to these players’ careers.

If the conditions are safe enough, the Big Ten should without a doubt play the season. This is absolutely the right decision. 

Playing this season could literally propel a no-name young man into a life of superstardom. And without playing, these players could miss their one chance of a lifetime.