The Big Ten announced Wednesday that football will resume on October 23 and 24. After a roller-coaster ride over the past few months that was highlighted by an unprecedented lack of transparency by the league, this decision is what the majority of fans, coaches, parents and — most importantly — the players needed.
Of course we all missed Big Ten football. For sports fans, waking up Saturday morning with an entire slate of games to watch is what fall is all about for sports fans. Hanging out with family and friends, eating good food, and having a great time watching college football is some people’s therapy.
The sense of normalcy the return of football will bring will be refreshing on the back side of this crazy year. Most importantly, thousands of student-athletes across the country just got their lives back.
Kids 18 to 23 years old, who are simply trying to figure out who they are and where their life is going, now have the option to participate in the major guiding presence in their life. Safety and health are paramount for everyone during these times, and the risk for these players can be debated until you are blue in the face, but we also have to consider the mental health effects of not having football.
For a demographic that is seen as low-risk for complications from COVID-19, making football work is the best play. Since the pandemic hit, the uncertainty of schedule and routine for classes, training, practices, being sent home, being sent back to school, etc. has caused more harm than good.
The least officials can do is give these athletes the choice. Players who would like to opt out for a year with no loss of eligibility should most definitely have that option, but this isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario.
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The NCAA and Big Ten always claim it’s their mission to provide the best experience possible for their athletes and provide avenues to grow in sports as well as in life. Resuming the season will do just that. It will be challenging for programs to jump back in, no doubt, as being ready to play a Division-1 football game takes ultimate preparation, but the people in these programs are also the best at adapting and making rapid progress.
As we near the October start date, excitement will surely rise and things will start to feel “right” again. The cool fall air that feels like football will no longer be taunting. The conversations at work will no longer be “what if.” The logistics will be different, as the drive to the game becomes the walk to the living room, and tailgates move to kitchens, but the spirit of loving college football will stay the same. Football has returned.
Tyler Kluver played as a long snapper on the University of Iowa football team from the 2014 to 2017 seasons. He is the host of the Washed Up Walkons podcast.