The coronavirus pandemic is still ravaging America, just as it was in August, when the college presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten Conference decided against playing football in the fall. The only thing that’s changed is that the same leaders now feel far more comfortable with the risks.
The Big Ten’s announcement this week that college football will begin the weekend of October 23 isn’t cause for celebration, but rather an indication of how easily money shifts priorities. Without football, the Big Ten and its member schools were in jeopardy of losing up to $1 billion in revenue.
Last month, the Big Ten was willing to set a brave example. It decided that its members, most of which are large public universities in the Midwest, would play no football this fall. But instead of being applauded for exhibiting farsighted, selfless leadership, the Big Ten has spent its hiatus being scolded by fans and parents, sued by players, and criticized by coaches. Meanwhile, Donald Trump—desperate to convince swing-state voters that nothing is amiss, despite nearly 200,000 deaths from the virus—has been meddling for his own political gain.
The Big Ten has watched as three of the four other college-football heavyweights—the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big 12, and the Southeastern Conference—have proceeded with their football seasons with the hearty approval of fans, even though 13 games have already been postponed or canceled because of COVID-19 outbreaks and the virus has many of their campuses under siege. One SEC coach, Louisiana State’s Ed Orgeron, admitted recently that “most” of his players had contracted the virus.