Whether or not Justin Fields wins a national championship in college football, he’s just made a significant contribution to American education. A month ago this column asked whether the Ohio State quarterback could bring the university presidents of the Big Ten conference back to their senses amid an administrative panic over Covid-19. The answer is now a resounding yes. This morning the Big Ten announced that it has reversed its decision to cancel football season. Conference play will begin in October.
It’s not often these days that one can happily announce a sensible decision by university administrators. But by accepting that life is about analyzing and managing risks–and not about attempting a futile and counterproductive effort to eliminate all risks–the leaders of the Big Ten are charting a better course. They should now focus on getting students back in the classroom while protecting those on campus with particular vulnerability to the virus.
According to today’s conference announcement, Big Ten schools have “adopted significant medical protocols including daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition.” It’s hard to argue they are not being careful enough. The announcement continues:
The Big Ten will require student-athletes, coaches, trainers and other individuals that are on the field for all practices and games to undergo daily antigen testing. Test results must be completed and recorded prior to each practice or game. Student-athletes who test positive for the coronavirus through point of contact (POC) daily testing would require a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result of the POC test.
Along with athletes like Mr. Fields, a prominent backer of the movement to bring back Big Ten football was President Donald Trump. His advocacy has inspired someone named Clete Marks to observe on Twitter that Mr. Trump “brokers peace deals in the Mid West as well as the Middle East!!”
Let’s hope that, just as in the Middle East, more participants will choose to join this wonderful process as its benefits become manifest.