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Big Ten revives football season in Trump-backed turnaround


The Big Ten Conference will play football this fall, after the organization’s chancellors and presidents approved a reversal of their recent decision to postpone the season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday's revival delivers a victory for President Donald Trump, who has demanded sports resume in an athletic conference that represents several swing states ahead of Election Day. The president has even intervened with calls to conference commissioner Kevin Warren. Conference presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to resume the football season starting the weekend of October 23-24.

The Big Ten — which includes colleges in the election battlegrounds of Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, among other states — made its decision even as some competitors postpone scheduled games or lose players to infections after pressing ahead with their own fall seasons, while the virus continues to spread in and around college towns in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia and other states.

In the Atlantic Coast Conference, coronavirus infections prompted Virginia Tech to postpone the first two games of its season, including this weekend’s scheduled matchup against the University of Virginia. That conference has pressed ahead with fall football alongside the Southeastern Conference, Big 12 and smaller-college conferences.

During a hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill, lawmakers raised concerns about athletes returning to the field amid warnings from public health experts about the potential for new virus outbreaks as schools host games with thousands of fans in attendance.

“If we’ve had to scrap the first two (Virginia Tech) games … why are we working so hard to continue fall football if the results, at least in the ACC, are such that grave questions about the ability to do it safely are so obvious?” asked Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

Rebecca Blank, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a witness at Tuesday’s hearing, said several problems prompted the Big Ten’s original cancellation, including uncertainty about being able to do "the level of testing and contact tracing that we needed to keep athletes safe," plus "growing evidence" and questions about a heart condition related to Covid-19.

“Until we have answers to that, we will keep our season postponed,” said Blank, who did not offer details about a Big Ten vote that's prompted protests and lawsuits. “Once we have answers to that, and to some of those issues, and things that we have ways to deal with them effectively, we will try to plan a delayed season.”

Further south, Arkansas State University said it could not safely play a scheduled Saturday game against Central Arkansas because its team could not assemble enough players to adequately fill its roster. Ed Orgeron, head coach of Louisiana State University’s powerhouse football team, said his squad has sustained infections as well.

“There is no telling what’s going to happen with the Covid,” Orgeron told reporters on Tuesday.

“Two weeks ago, we had everybody on our offensive line, except two or three guys, were out,” he said. “But I think most of — not all of our players — but most of our players have caught it. So I think that hopefully they don’t catch it again and hopefully they’re not out for games.”

It’s not just Southern schools that are struggling to quell the spread of the virus.

Infections in Michigan State University’s home of East Lansing prompted the county health department to order residents of 30 large houses into an immediate two-week quarantine this week. Many of the affected are university fraternity and sorority students.

“I do not take this lightly, but there is an outbreak centered on Michigan State University, and it is quickly becoming a crisis,” county health officer Linda Vail said Monday. “The surge in cases we have seen over the past few weeks is alarming.”

Source: Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/16/big-ten-revives-football-season-in-trump-backed-turnaround-415870

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