The Return of Big Ten Football and the Possible Impacts on Students

by Declan Wahlers ’21

Source: The Chicago Tribune

Published Oct. 4, 2020

The fall is a season best known for the return to school, Halloween, and the start of the football season. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has made much of this year very challenging and has uprooted many autumnal traditions that many of us hold so close. 

During the pandemic, most of us have had to sacrifice a variety of privileges to help ensure the safety of those around us. We wear masks and don’t gather in large groups; these new rules have become pillars of our lives in this new time. This new lifestyle also forced the temporary pause of many of those fall customs we look forward to every year. 

Back in August, the Big Ten came out with a statement postponing all fall sports for the 2020-2021 season due to concerns over the health and safety of students and professors. This came as a disappointment to many college sports fans as the annual collegiate basketball tournament March Madness was canceled in the early stages of the pandemic for the same reasons. 

However, the Big Ten Council of Chancellors and Presidents recently voted unanimously to carry on with the college football season. This announcement was met with mixed reactions from the general public as well as people in the sports world. According to the Big Ten website, this decision comes with new safety protocols for coaches and players, including but not limited to: daily screening, mandatory masks, and no fans in the stands during games. 

There are also guidelines for what happens if athletes’ COVID tests return positive. If a team has a positivity rate of 5% or more, practice and games will be stopped for seven days until the organization and the NCAA can reassess the situation. Set to start on October 23rd, the season has been modified to include fewer games and teams will only play other teams within the conference to minimize spread and travel.

To many fans this is great news, but some of the students who go to these schools have differing opinions. Nate Eck, a freshman at Rutgers, is currently taking only virtual classes for his first semester. He feels conflicted about the return of football, stating that “it is unfair and frustrating that [the athletes] get to go back to a campus that the majority of us aren’t allowed on currently. I do however enjoy watching and rooting for my school’s team so I don’t know how I feel.” He fears that getting all personnel and players involved in the team back together on campus might keep him virtual even longer than he originally intended to. 

On the other hand, Ethan McLaughlin, a junior at Hillsborough High School, is looking to apply to mainly Big Ten schools, and supports the return of football. He feels like this is a positive step towards normal schooling and is excited to watch his favorite team, Iowa, in October. Student life is a critical factor in the college application process for many, and as a prospective student to Big Ten schools, he likes to see that football will resume as game days are a staple on Saturdays.

Only time will tell how smoothly this football season runs. Hopefully this is the first successful step to having students return to campus and get back to normalcy.

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