LINCOLN — Nebraska football is back on for the fall after the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted to restart the season with a target date of Oct. 24, the conference announced Wednesday morning.
The announcement was telegraphed by Nebraska President Ted Carter, who was overheard on an open microphone Tuesday morning saying the decision would be revealed later in the day. It wasn't; instead, the league waited one more day, and the oft-quoted target date of Oct. 17 was moved back one week.
The decision comes roughly one month after the same Big Ten council voted 11-3 to postpone all fall sports, including football. At the time of the decision, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren cited too many medical uncertainties and the amateur status of student-athletes as driving factors. Shortly after the Big Ten voted to postpone in August, the Pac-12 followed suit.
The ACC, Big 12 and SEC did not postpone their seasons though. And in the days after the Big Ten’s decision, Nebraska and Ohio State publicly pushed back. Both, in the face of national media criticism, attempted to lobby for playing their own schedules. The Big Ten wouldn’t allow it, so parents and players from both schools got vocal.
One OSU parent led a protest at Big Ten headquarters in Chicago, and Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields launched an online petition to play this fall signed by hundreds of thousands. Buckeye coach Ryan Day, whose team was ranked No. 2 in the preseason Associated Press poll, has been consistently vocal in his desire to play.
A group of Husker parents wrote a letter to Warren and secured a lawyer — Mike Flood, who is running this fall for election to the Nebraska Legislature — to pursue legal action against the Big Ten. Eight Nebraska players sued for more information, forcing the Big Ten to disclose the numerical result of the vote. And on Friday, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said in a three-page letter to the league that the Big Ten may be out of compliance with the Nebraska Nonprofit Corporations Act.
Peterson’s letter is more evidence that the state — from Gov. Pete Ricketts through NU’s academic administration down to program walk-ons — has been in lockstep about playing football this fall. Nebraska’s athletic department even purchased 1,200 antigen test kits from Quidel for that can accommodate two teams.
Coupled with the Lincoln-Lancaster Health Department’s increased allowance for 30,000 people in outdoor venues, it seemed clear NU was preparing for the possibility of hosting games with fans this fall.
Husker coach Scott Frost, in a Sept. 6 interview with The World-Herald, said he could have his team ready in three weeks. In accordance with NCAA rules, NU has been practicing multiple times per week in only helmets to stay fresh in case fall football was back on the table.
And Frost, criticized harshly in mid-August for expressing a desire to play, kept battling for his team.
“All I really want to say about it is, if I get criticized for fighting for my kids and wanting to play football, I’m OK with getting criticized,” Frost said.
“I want fighters. I want guys who aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in and aren’t afraid of criticism or afraid of a fight. That’s the attitude I want from our players and they need to see it from us and know we are fighting for them.”
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