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EDITORIAL: Starting a Big Ten football season in January faces too many obstacles

YORK DISPATCH EDITORIAL BOARD
  • The Big Ten Conference recently canceled its 2020 fall football season.
  • A plan has been floated to play a Big Ten football season from January through March.
  • That plan would include playing as many games as possible in domed stadiums.
Penn State star linebacker Micah Parsons has decided to give up his remaining college eligibility to turn pro. More college players will likely follow his lead.

Look, we get it.

Big Ten fans desperately want to see some football.

Big Ten players and coaches desperately want to play and coach some football.

And Big Ten athletic directors desperately want to see their No. 1 cash cows back up and pumping money into their depleted athletic budgets.

Still, the idea of playing an abbreviated Big Ten football season starting in early January and likely running through March, and then coming back again just a few months later to play a full 2021 fall schedule sounds foolhardy.

Big Ten's goal: January start for football, with hopes for full fall 2021 schedule

There are too many hurdles to overcome.

Not enough rest: No. 1 is the physical toll of playing two seasons, and likely more than 20 games, in fewer than 11 months.

Such a jammed scheduled would be dangerous for the young players whose bodies are still developing into adulthood.

Football is the most physically demanding of all sports. The violent collisions that occur on every single play leave the players feeling sore and tired after every single game.

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Time is the only tried-and-true method of recovering from those weekly beatings. The January-March proposal would only leave a few months off between the end of one exhausting season and the start of the next.

That would be asking too much of college athletes, who are also being asked to be full-time students at the same.

Quality of play: The quality of play would also suffer.

A number of players who were expected to be stars during the since-canceled fall Big Ten season have already announced their intentions to now go pro. That includes Penn State star linebacker Micah Parsons, who is from Harrisburg.

You can only expect that number to grow. Players who are eligible to turn pro for the 2021 NFL draft are extremely unlikely to want to play a January-March college season. There’s a simple reason for that. Their bodies won’t have time to adequately recover from the college season and still prepare properly for the NFL Combine and Pro Days that will have a major bearing on their draft stock. The threat of serious injuries would hang heavy over their heads.

So those experienced players are almost certainly going to follow the Parsons route and give up their college eligibility to focus on their pro futures.

That would leave the Big Ten teams competing in a hypothetical January-March season with a depleted roster full of young and untested players.

The quality of play will undoubtedly decline.

COVID and weather issues: Finally, and maybe most importantly, there are no signs that the COVID-19 pandemic will disappear between now and January.

In fact, the very real possibility exists that the pandemic is going to be just as bad, and maybe even worse, come January.

The proponents of a January-March season are pushing the possibility of playing as many games as possible in domed stadiums within the Big Ten footprint to avoid the rugged winter weather in the Northeast and Midwest during the January-March window.

That would call for an awful lot of travel in potentially bad weather during a period when officials are telling us to limit our travel.

And those are just some of the obstacles. There are others.

Wait until September of 2021: Yes, many of us around here would love to see Big Ten football as soon as possible. We need all the distractions we can get.

A January-March Big Ten season, however, would appear to be an unattainable pipe dream.

It would be in everyone's best interest to wait until September of 2021, when, hopefully, the pandemic will be largely behind us.