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KRATCH: Will Big Ten finally move on after coronavirus vote is confirmed?

JAMES KRATCH
NJ Advance Media Group (TNS)
Kevin Warren

Perhaps it was always going to get to this point — the only thing more American than college football is questionable litigation — but this is where the Big Ten’s summer of discontent should come to a conclusion.

But will it?

The conference finally confirmed its presidents and chancellors voted to cancel the fall season due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the decision was clear. Two affidavits and a brief filed Monday in Lancaster (Nebraska) County district court documented the 11-3 decision under oath and, the league believes, should lead to the dismissal of a lawsuit filed last week by eight Nebraska football players in a last-ditch attempt to get back on the field.

Athletes, coaches, fans, parents, even university officials do not have to agree with the decision. But the conference followed its bylaws, consulted experts and acted accordingly. There was no conspiracy or unilateral power grab by embattled commissioner Kevin Warren, nor is there proof of political machinations.

There is a novel virus that has killed 180,000 Americans. It presents the risk of myocarditis and other serious health issues that are not yet fully understood in athletes. Almost half the league had workout shutdowns because of it this summer. So, the university leaders do not want to try to play football with it. While the messaging has been lackluster and the transparency lacking, it seems reasonable enough.

Still, the rancor is likely to continue for a while. The Nebraska lawsuit is still active for now. The league’s detractors are unlikely to stop shouting anytime soon. There are still volumes of open record requests outstanding. And, of course, some still are holding on to the hope of a miraculous reversal.

The conference’s coaches and athletic directors have discussed a potential Thanksgiving weekend start. If that approach gets any traction, there will inevitably be a push to turn the ship around entirely and try to kick off earlier than that. But perhaps the most important takeaway from the Big Ten’s court filing, besides the details of the vote, was the conference’s revelation it must have at least a 60% majority on all major decisions.

That means the Big Ten campus leaders, at minimum, must vote 9-5 to stage a football season, whenever that may be. That will require a six-vote swing, which is hard to envision given the current state of the conference’s footprint in its battle against the virus.

So while the will may still be there, there is unlikely to be a way for the conference to take the field again before January at the earliest.