Big 10 football will resume, but still faces legal challenges

(The Center Square) – Some of this fall’s biggest battles may end up off the gridiron once Big Ten football resumes Oct. 23.

In fact, the legal ramifications of either postponing or beginning the 2020 football season in the midst of a pandemic loom large.

That’s according to Todd Glassman, a family law attorney and sports legal analyst with the Chicago-based Allen & Glassman law firm. In an interview with The Center Square, Glassman noted pressure to allow college football was applied from President Donald Trump and college coaches such as University of Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh to football players worried the COVID-19 lockdowns might result in scuttling their post-college NFL prospects as well as thousands of fans.

During a news conference held last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer displayed visible frustration with repeated questions from journalists regarding whether she would consider allowing college football to be played this fall.

Citing an Aug. 10 New York Post article, Glassman said cancelling the entire 2020 college football season would cost $275 million in Big Ten ticket sales and an estimated overall loss of $1 billion in total revenue.

Both the ACC and SEC conferences have announced they’d allow football this fall, with attendance at games limited to 20% stadium capacity.

“The NFL also just started last week,” Glassman said. “Although the NFL is not allowing full capacity crowds either.”

Glassman said he considers proceeding with the football season this fall rather than postponing it until next spring, as had been proposed, “a smart move,” and added: “It’s still going to have a tremendous impact on the conferences’ revenue stream.”

Among the many developments surrounding resuming Big Ten football this fall, Glassman said, is the development of strict rules and new methods of rapid COVID-19 testing that provide results within hours, which “eliminate a lot of risks.” Prior to the rapid results provided by the new tests, Glassman said Big Ten officials had voted 11-3 to postpone the 2020 football season.

Glassman also said legal pressure “absolutely” changed minds about moving forward with Big Ten football.

“Court orders, threats of more to come, and players filing suits because weren’t allowed to advance their careers all played a part,” he said.

“What was needed and what happened is a unified policy,” Glassman said. “Why were some big-time programs playing while others were not?”

Glassman recommended university football teams assign a player engagement coordinator such as those employed in the NFL to serve as a team watchdog when they’re not attending practice or playing games.

“The biggest risks student athletes face now is what they do off the field,” he said, noting players might attend parties or student bars without observing social distancing protocols.

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