Though the Big Ten announced the restart of the fall football season Wednesday morning, a press conference held hours later confirmed that tickets will not be available for public purchase, nor does Purdue administration encourage students to congregate for tailgating festivities when the season starts.
The season will begin Oct. 23-24, according to a statement released by the conference Wednesday morning, after the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously to restart the season.
Shortly after the announcement was made, the Big Ten Network hosted a conference call with Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren, Northwestern President Morton Schapiro, Dr. James Borchers, Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour and Vice President for Athletics and Recreation Jim Phillips to discuss the decision.
Purdue Athletics hosted a Zoom call with Purdue President Mitch Daniels, Athletics Director Mike Bobinski and head coach Jeff Brohm later on Wednesday afternoon.
"Everyone associated with the Big Ten should be very proud of the ground-breaking steps that are now being taken to better protect the health and safety of the student-athletes and surrounding communities," said Borchers, co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee in the Big Ten's initial statement.
The COP/C voted to postpone the season on Aug. 11 after medical staff raised "serious questions" about player health, Warren said.
Daniels said that between then and now, the conference has been focused on finding a way to restart the season.
Warren attributed the backlash he and the conference received in the wake of the decision to "passionate" Big Ten fans, athletes and families.
Daniels and Schapiro said their reversal of opinion was based on new evidence and availability of testing they learned from medical personnel.
"For me, it wasn't about political pressure, it wasn't about money, it wasn't about lawsuits," Schapiro said.
The teams will likely play an eight-game schedule with an added cross-divisional ninth game the week of the conference championship, according to Bobinski, but no details have been finalized as of Wednesday afternoon. The specific matchups will most likely resemble the pre-COVID-19 conference scheduling the teams announced early this year minus one of the cross-divisional games. Bobinski confirmed Purdue's rivalry matchup with IU would likely remain in the original eight-game block.
The locations for those games have not yet been determined, but the conference projects a championship in Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium. Bobinski said the Big Ten has left itself enough room to compete for the postseason. The conference has been in close contact with Gary Barta, Iowa athletic director and College Football Playoff Athletics Directors Advisory Group member about the issue. The conference believes the Big Ten will have the opportunity to participate in the postseason and the College Football Playoff.
No public tickets will be available for the season, meaning fans will be unable to attend the games, Barbour said. The conference is working with universities on a campus-by-campus basis to determine the best methods to bring families of players and staff into the stadiums for each game. Daniels discouraged tailgating or other fan gatherings, and hopes students and fans can find ways to enjoy football "without congregating."
He also hinted the issue may be revisited during the season as more information becomes available.
Brohm expects the team to continue practicing Thursday, and begin working in pads around Sept. 30. He said he would look into talking to Rondale Moore about opting back into the season, and the play waiver for grad transfer defensive back D.J. Johnson has been submitted to the NCAA.
"We're going to support any decision (Rondale) wants to make going forward and the avenue he wants to go," Brohm said. "That's something we're definitely going to look into and see where that goes."
Looking ahead, the conference is confident about the potential return of other fall sports and the start of winter sports like basketball. Warren confirmed the COP/C will meet Thursday morning to discuss the possibility of restarting other fall sports like volleyball and soccer.
The decision will be complicated by the decision to move many of the championships for those sports to the spring, which was made after the Big Ten and Pac-12's postponement.
Daniels said he believes successfully implementing the Big Ten's testing protocols in football would allow a normal basketball season to happen, especially with how much the conference is learning about the pandemic as time goes on.
"Every week that goes by we learn more, we find new ways to manage this disease," Daniels said. "I think we're gaining on this bug."
Asst. Sports Editor Joe Duhownik contributed reporting.