University Park, Pa.—Penn State games might look a little different, but fans and players will be rejoicing at the news Wednesday morning that Big Ten football will make its long-awaited return in October.
On a typical season, the playoff picture and eventual conference championship might already be staring to take form. This year, the voting committee and NCAA will likely be out of the picture as a conference only schedule is adopted.
Rankings will remain, but for athletes and coaches the news about simply getting back on the field will be enough.
“We are excited for our guys to have the opportunity to get back to action safely,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “These last several months have been riddled with uncertainty for our student-athletes, but they have handled it with class and dignity. Our guys have remained relentless in following our COVID-19 protocols and in their preparations to be ready to play football.”
Franklin and his players have been forced to wait much longer than most schools as the conference juggled a desire to get back on the field and a need to keep people safe.
Apparently, after a lot of back-and-forth decision making, the Big Ten feels it can operate through a shortened season and keep players and coaches free of infection.
“I am thankful the Big Ten’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors considered the information presented by the Big Ten’s Return to Competition Task Force and determined we would return to football competition this fall,” Penn State Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour said. “I appreciate the COP/C’s vigilance in continually keeping the health and well-being of our student-athletes as the top priority and deciding to move forward to a return after determining we can do so safely.”
Barbour has met with the media at least one or twice a month for the past five months to give updates on sports and a possible fall season. She has answered tough questions multiple times but has remained committed to the idea that a season would be possible if players could be kept safe.
“As always, the Big Ten has placed health and safety at the forefront,” Barbour said. “The outlined return to competition protocol places the priority on that principle, as well as establishing several research initiatives as we work together to address the health and societal impacts of COVID-19.”
Along with safety, she also acknowledged this was a victory for the student-athletes, who have remained committed to their desire to play a fall season.
“The opportunity to safely return to athletic competition is a positive for not only our athletics department, but our campus community and Penn State nation,” Barbour said. “Most importantly, I am thrilled for our student-athletes, coaches and staff, as I know how much continued hard work they have put in during this summer and fall with their eyes on returning to competition.”
The prospect of playing is now a realization as the 2020 Nittany Lions officially have a date to circle on their calendar. Franklin has been ready since last spring but took time to thank all the people who helped make it all come together for the Big Ten.
“We would like to thank Eric Barron and Sandy Barbour for their continued support and efforts in helping us return,” Franklin said. “We are so appreciative of the work the Big Ten’s Return to Competition Task Force put in to give us a safe path to playing football this fall. We are also thankful the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten considered the information presented and voted for the safe return to play.”