Penn State coach James Franklin doesn't see any real lingering questions keeping his program -or the Big Ten as a conference- from returning to play he said during an in-house podcast run by Penn State Athletics.
“I don’t think there’s any [questions] left,” Franklin said.
“There are about 13 or 14 medical procedures and policies that we had to have in place, that was universal throughout the conference, and they’ve really been answered now. So now it’s getting everybody in the room and making the decision and say ‘let’s go.’”
Franklin's comments are the latest in a long line from him and other Big Ten coaches that see the league's decision to cancel the upcoming football season and fall sports calendar as a poorly communicated and executed plan. Reports on almost a daily basis state indicate that the Big Ten is due to reconsider its absolute cancelation of play in 2020 with a possible return to the field prior to the new year and in some instances perhaps as early as mid October.
Generally speaking, rapid and accurate COVID-19 testing as well as more efficient contact-tracing have been cited as major hurdles for successfully pulling off a college football season. The Pac-12 -the other major Power Five conference on hold- recently announced steps in that direction while the Big Ten has remained silent. Penn State Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour did mention during a radio show appearance last week that the Big Ten was making strides in that area.
The league, and the vast majority of Big Ten Presidents and Chancellors, have remained silent on the issue of a pending return, with a handful still reportedly in favor with moving forward with the decision to postpone the season.
In Franklin's eyes, if programs don't want to play, that shouldn't slow anyone else down.
"If there are one or two teams that don’t feel like they can pull off all the policies and procedures in place, let them opt-out,” Franklin said.
“Let those schools opt-out, but that shouldn’t stop the other 12 schools that can make it work from playing. It’s too important. A lot of times people think it’s about the athletic department, it’s about the university; it’s about the student-athletes, it’s about my players, I've got players that have an opportunity to create tremendous value, for themselves and for their families by playing the game of football, so I have a responsibility to them."
The good news for players and fans, the window needed to return to play might be a bit smaller than it was before. While teams across the Big Ten had a fairly universal opinion that ramping up to a season would take at least six weeks in order to prevent injuries, ongoing practices and conditioning periods have cut that time down significantly, meaning if a decision was made the turn around time would be even shorter.
“The thing that we know is, we need four weeks," Franklin added. "I think most of the coaches have agreed, and I know we have, that we think we can we can pull a season off with four weeks of preparation.”
When or if that season might happen still remains to be seen, but