The Big Ten conference announced that they would start football the weekend of October 24, rolling back their initial decision to postpone fall sports. Yahoo Sports Reporter Pete Thamel joins The Final Round panel to discuss how this decision will impact other leagues.
SEANA SMITH: So, Anjalee, while we have you, we also need to ask you about the big story in the sports world today. We don't often talk to you about sports. But this one has to do with the coronavirus and the Big Ten saying that it's going to have its 2020 football season.
I went through the release. A lot of it has to do with testing. And their testing plan here is pretty detailed. Each school, from my understanding, is going to have this chief infections officer. But what can you tell us just about the Big Ten's plan to effectively and to safely complete the season?
- It definitely looks to be a thought out plan and robust in terms of what they're looking at with that testing as well. We have to remember that this is following the protocol that we've seen in some colleges and universities as well. Very interesting to see in addition to testing, just the magnitude of what will have to happen when you're looking at the sports season and just the enthusiasm over it as well. Seana.
SEANA SMITH: All right, Anjalee. Thanks so much. Well sticking with the Big Ten reversing course and announcing that it will have a football season starting at the end of October, we have Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports. And, Pete, you broke this story earlier today-- the league completely changing direction. Just curious your initial reaction to this, the Big Ten's change in decision. And also, what do you think led to this final decision that we got today?
PETE THAMEL: Sure, Seana, about 40 days ago the Big Ten initially announced that it was going to postpone and not have a fall season in 2020. Eight days after that, it doubled down. And it said they were not gonna to revisit it. And a month after that double-down, here we are, Big Ten reversing.
I would think there's a confluence of factors that really led to the Big Ten coming to this decision. One, of which you can't argue, is the presence and the more accessibility and accuracy of rapid daily testing, as Anjalee just said. Rapid daily testing essentially allows these football programs to operate within a bubble.
They create the bubble every day going into their facility. Players, coaches, trainers, managers-- if everyone is tested before they enter, they call it a clean field. All the fields will be clean.
The other, I like to call visceral peer pressure. When you sit at home Saturday and you watch Notre Dame play Duke in South Bend, Indiana in the Big Ten footprint-- you watch Iowa State play Louisiana, even though they lost, in the Big Ten footprint-- the chancellors and presidents have to sit back and say, wait a minute. Maybe we could do that too.
SEANA SMITH: Pete, that's interesting there. You bring up what we saw over the weekend. And I remember watching the Notre Dame game. And I was surprised to see how many fans were in the stadium.
And that of course leads me to my question to you. Do we know anything about potential fans in the stadium? Because when you take a look at some of these venues, some of the largest venues are from the Big Ten names, when you think of Ohio State, Penn State, and also Michigan just to name a few.
ANDY SERWER: Oh, Big House.
PETE THAMEL: Sure. Seana, I really think that it's a good question. Especially if you watch the NFL on Sunday and you see these big spooky, empty stadiums. The Big Ten said today they will not have fans other than family members, potentially. So we'll see as the season evolves.
And the thought was eventually when there became daily, cheap, rapid testing that you could test fans. Texas paid for 1,000 students to get tested. And they went to the UTEP game there on Saturday night. So as of right now, those big iconic stadiums that you mentioned will not have more fans in them than family. We'll see as the season evolves if that changes and loosens up.
ANDY SERWER: Yeah. Our producer Pras Subramanian is a Michigan guy. So he just wants this segment to go on for a very long time, Pete and for us to talk about Michigan and Ohio State's not as good and all that. But I digress.
PETE THAMEL: Well, their quarterback transferred today, Andy. It's actually really big football news. Dylan McCaffrey, the brother Christian McCaffrey, who was gonna start at quarterback for them-- they have not had a good quarterback their entire tenure.
In fact, ironically Jim Harbaugh's last good quarterback was Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. It was Andrew Luck before that. So it's gonna be-- everybody's got a Michigan guy in their office. So we can all relate to Pras. And it's gonna be a long Fall for Pras.
ANDY SERWER: Ah, the rabbit hole. So we're all the teams onboard though? All the schools, I should say, Pete. 'Cause I heard that the Marylands and the Rutgers may not have wanted to do this, not that they matter. Being from the state of Maryland I can say that.
PETE THAMEL: Well, Andy, this is a funny case study in group presidential politics. The vote was unanimous, which is like every other vote in the 110-year history of the Big Ten, except the last vote, which was 11-3, which really hinted at some of the consternation we were going to have. It's very common policy, and I'm gonna wink here, that every vote after its vote is re-voted to be unanimous.
But if you read the Rutgers statement today, it didn't feel unanimous. Look, you have 14 schools in 11 different states that vary from Iowa City to New Jersey. And you just have a lot of different constituencies within that footprint.
And I can't sit here and tell you that all 14 coaches are all giddy-up to play and all 14 athletic directors are giddy-up to play. And certainly the presidents, who are more worried about their multi-trillion dollar industry than this pesky little multi-billion dollar football issue are really fired up at some of the optics of this. But you're we are.
SEANA SMITH: Pete, what are your thoughts on the political involvement of this story? Specifically when we talk about President Trump, we know that he called the Big Ten's Commissioner, Kevin Warren, after the initial decision to postpone the season back in August. Now he was tweeting this morning taking credit for the decision on Twitter. I'm just curious just what the reaction has been in the sports world to President Trump I guess playing a bigger role than what's normal in the football season so far this year.
PETE THAMEL: Well, him declaring victory for this was a little bit like predicting Alabama is gonna beat Southeastern Louisiana in an early season normal game. You could see it coming from a mile away, especially with obviously all the swing states that are in the Big Ten footprint.
I think Trump has really just been viewed with a general eye roll amongst college athletics-- be it at the presidential level, be it at the AD level. Kevin Warren kind of had to engage with him. 'Cause part of Trump's conversation with Kevin Warren was about daily rapid testing.
It will be notable when the Big Ten announces their daily rapid testing. It's not from the federal government. 'Cause I don't think anyone really wanted the political implications that would have come with gifting Trump this political victory. So Donald Trump has entered our lives. And I have a lot of empathy for our great Yahoo News reporters who have to live on the whim of his every tweet.
SEANA SMITH: And, Pete, just to wrap this up, what are your expectations in terms of the football season? From what we know from the steps that the NFL has taken now, from what a lot of these college leagues are doing-- are you confident, is the sports world confident that we are going to be able to complete this season?
PETE THAMEL: Well, what I'm confident in saying is what we've seen so far. It is going to be a seasons where disruption is the norm. And it's gonna be a season of bad football. The football has not been great so far this season. I am grateful to have football. Don't get me wrong. My industry, literally, and livelihood depends on it.
But to sit here and try to put lipstick on the pig that we've seen the last three weeks would be also a little bit disingenuous as a football analyst. Do I think we finish the season? Yes. Do you guarantee it? No. Will there be-- I believe there's been at least a dozen games either canceled or delayed so far. And there's no reason to believe there won't be a dozen or two more.
And one of the delightful things about college football is it stretches right from Miami to Seattle, from Boston to Tempe, Arizona. And it touches every culture in between. It's beautifully chaotic.
And this season, the beautiful chaos will be unmatched. Because you're gonna have seasons of different lengths. The playoff debate is gonna be, "well, you played this many games. And you only played this many games." It is going to be the beautiful mess that we've all embraced, just a little messier.
SEANA SMITH: I like that, "beautiful chaos." All right. Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports breaking the story here on the Big Ten today. Thanks so much for joining us.
PETE THAMEL: Thanks for having me, Seana.