Big Ten football season could begin as soon as January

A winter football season is in the works for the conference after the announcement Aug. 11 that fall sports had been postponed due to COVID-19.

Iowa+players+run+onto+the+field+during+a+football+game+between+Iowa+and+Minnesota+at+Kinnick+Stadium+on+Saturday%2C+Nov.+16%2C+2019.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Gophers%2C+23-19.

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa players run onto the field during a football game between Iowa and Minnesota at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gophers, 23-19.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor


The Big Ten postponed all fall sports in the conference on Aug. 11 due to COVID-19, saying that competing in the spring instead would be a possibility. For Big Ten football, a season starting as soon as January is in the works instead.

Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta said on a video conference Monday that Wisconsin Athletic Director and former head football coach Barry Alvarez is chairing a Big Ten subcommittee that is targeting a winter season rather than waiting for the spring.

That season could involve playing in domed stadiums and would begin, “sometime after the first of the year.”

“One model that’s been discussed is playing as early as January to February — not in Kinnick Stadium — that would be a model where it would float around to different venues,” Barta said. “But one of the things that we’re talking about is that very question — what would the number of games be and making sure there’s enough time between the last game and the first game of 2021.

“One of the principles is making sure that our student-athletes are healthy going into 2021, and we’re able to play a full 12-game schedule plus a bowl game in 2021. So that’s one of the reasons we’re looking at that earlier schedule rather than later in the spring.”

RELATED: Iowa AD Gary Barta supported fall football season

The Big Ten released its new 2020 football schedule on Aug. 5. Only six days later, the conference’s presidents and chancellors voted to postpone all sports in the conference.

Barta, who is also serving as chairman of the College Football Playoff committee despite Iowa not playing this fall, said Monday that both he and University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld supported delaying the football season, rather than postponing it, in hopes of playing this fall.

Playing a season starting in January, Barta said, includes setting up arrangements for a different television schedule.

RELATED: Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren says conference’s decision to postpone fall sports ‘will not be revisited’

“The first thing we’re doing is meeting with our television partners to make sure that they can figure out a plan of how that would work,” Barta said. “Once that’s done, then we still have medical issues that have to be resolved before we start playing sports. We have to have those resolved in time to play our winter sports for sure. We haven’t set an absolute deadline.

“If you use the same metrics we used in preparing for this fall, we had sort of used a four-to-six week window of training and conditioning. If we’re able to continue to train though, leading up to December, I could see a scenario where we start in earnest with a camp in December. That gets us ready to play in January. But we haven’t set an absolute deadline yet.”

An obstacle in playing a winter season is the quick turnaround to playing another slate of games next fall. Barta said that summer programs would have to be modified to ensure athletes are “at full health” heading into the fall season.

Following the postponement of the season, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said he thought playing two seasons in a calendar year was realistic.

“I think it’s possible,” Ferentz said. “I think we have to really be smart … What you do after the spring season has ended, and how that pertains to the fall, how you train for that, that obviously is going to look different than it has ever looked before.”

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