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Eight-game season likely for Big Ten teams
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BIG TEN FOOTBALL

Eight-game season likely for Big Ten teams

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The Hawkeye logo is seen on the 50 yard line at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019.

At this point, it appears to be more of a matter of when Big Ten Conference football teams will start a delayed season rather than if there would be a season at all.

The conference has made no official announcement about what Big Ten presidents and chancellors have decided to do about re-starting a season they put on hold in early August, but it has approved assembling a revised revised football schedule that could have the season kick off as early as Oct. 17.

By starting the season that weekend or even one week later on Oct. 24, enough time would remain on the calendar for Big Ten teams to play an eight-game, conference-only schedule and hold a Big Ten Championship game on Dec. 19, one day before the College Football Playoff committee announces its four-team field.

The eight-game schedule would include four home games and four road games for each team and return some sense of normalcy to a season sidelined by concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the season started on Oct. 17, that would allow each team to even have one bye week on schedules that would include games against six divisional opponents and two opponents from the opposite division.

An Oct. 24 start would eliminate the bye week for all teams.

While some uncertainty remains, Big Ten programs are preparing for a mid-October start to the season.

Iowa posted multiple photos of Hawkeye players working out in the weight room on Tuesday under the heading, "Stay ready so you don’t gotta get ready."

University of Nebraska president Ted Carter provided more than a hint of the possibility of plans for a season moving forward when comments he made prior to a news conference in Lincoln were caught on a hot mic.

"We’re getting ready to announce the Huskers and Big Ten football tonight," Carter said in a conversation with Bob Hinson, director of the National Strategic Research Institute, that was picked up by a KETV-TV microphone prior to the event.

Asked about it following the event, Carter said his comments were taken out of context and added that Nebraska remains "cautiously optimistic" about the prospects for a season starting in a matter of weeks and not the months initially anticipated when the Big Ten scrapped plans for fall sports because of the coronavirus.

During the same morning Carter spoke, Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank told a U.S. Senate committee that the Big Ten continued to wait for answers to medical concerns before making any announcement regarding the 2020 season.

She said the "will keep our season postponed," until answers to those concerns could be provided.

Speaking to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee at a hearing to discuss name, image and likeness legislation that would allow compensation for collegiate athletes, Blank was asked by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-West Virginia) if there would be a vote among campus leaders this week to start the season.

"Decisions within the Big Ten are largely majority-based decisions, but I’ll be honest we almost always decide everything by consensus," Blank said. "We very rarely take votes."

She declined to say whether presidents and chancellors from the 14 schools had reached a consensus.

Blank on Monday said a "variety of things" have changed since the group made its initial decision, including the availability of accurate rapid testing for the coronavirus.

She indicated Big Ten presidents and chancellors had "a very good discussion" on a weekend as football teams from the Atlantic Coast and Big 12 conferences started their seasons.

Blank indicated that if the Big Ten decides to return to the field soon, it would do so collectively.

"We’re all going to play or not," she said. "… This isn’t going to be a school by school thing."

The Big Ten is one of four Football Bowl Subdivision conferences which originally announced plans to postpone the season until spring. The Pac-12, Mid-American and Mountain West conferences have also delayed the start of their seasons.

While the Big Ten and Pac-12 wait, the other three power-five conferences, the ACC, Big 12 and SEC, have maintained plans to play this fall.

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