INDIANAPOLIS – After instituting strict league-wide policies for how to navigate a year of collegiate athletics through the COVID-10 pandemic, the Big Ten Conference is taking a more hands-off approach entering the fall seasons of 2021.
During his press conference at Big Ten Media Days on Thursday, commissioner Kevin Warren announced that the conference still had not finalized its COVID-19 protocols, with the opening football game between Nebraska and Illinois just 37 days away.
Warren said the Big Ten’s university chancellors and presidents voted in June to create “a decentralized process” to handle COVID issues, leaving much of that up to the schools to craft their policies and procedures.
The league expects to announce its final conference guidelines in early August, Warren said.
“One of the things I did learn last year is to make sure that we are methodical and thoughtful – that we bring people together,” Warren said. “And so we’re right where we want it to be.
“As soon as we gather all the information from our schools in early August, we’ll finalize our policies to make sure that we pressure-tested as much as we possibly can, and then we’ll make sure we release it to everyone in the media and in the public.”
It’s not just the Big Ten that is still trying to finalize its COVID-19 protocols. Each of the seven head coaches who spoke during Thursday’s Media Day had different answers about their respective programs in establishing their guidelines.
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said the Huskers were still waiting to get more clarity from the conference regarding its policies and requirements before implementing their plan.
“We’re prepared, I think, to handle it if the conference tells us it’s going to be handled on each campus,” Frost said. “I know I’ve had conversations with that, and conversations are going on above my head about ways to handle things like that.
“We are doing the best we can to educate our guys about vaccinations and trying to let them understand that it’s safe. Vaccination gives us the best chance to have a football season that’s uninterrupted.”
Athletic director Trev Alberts said many of the COVID-19 decisions would be assisted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center, which would work side-by-side with NU’s administration.
“It’s really a collaborative effort,” Alberts said. “Ronnie Green, our chancellor, has policies on our campus that our policies have to fit within. All those collective assets will come together with the proper protocols in place.
“Then what we’re all going to do is we’re going to be submitting those to the Big Ten, which then they can aggregate those results and ultimately come up with some policies that will work for all of us.”
With COVID-19 numbers surging again throughout the country, other Power Five leagues have already announced detailed plans for managing the upcoming football season. In some cases, like in the Big 12 and SEC, teams that cannot play a game due to a COVID-19 outbreak would potentially have to forfeit rather than postpone to a later date.
“I don’t have an opinion on that, and I won’t,” Frost said when asked about the idea of forfeitures. “We fought hard for football last year because we thought it was the right thing. I’m really grateful to the people that helped make it happen so that we could get a chance to play last year.
“Where we landed last year was a good place. I thought the season came off well with the Big Ten and was managed well. We’re going to trust them to make those types of decisions.”
#HuskerOnline #Nebraska #Big #Ten #navigating #season #COVID19 #protocols