Big 10 football is back: UW-Madison discusses what happens next

Sports

Barry Alvarez met with the media and Wisconsin’s Athletic Director is “thrilled” that the Badgers will be playing football this fall.

FILE – In this Sept. 15, 2018, file photo, Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst, left, talks to athletic director Barry Alvarez before an NCAA college football game against BYU in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin announced Saturday, May 9, 2020, it is asking 25 of its highest-earning employees to volunteer for a 15% pay cut over the next six months. That group includes athletic director Barry Alvarez, football coach Paul Chryst and men’s basketball coach Greg Gard. There won’t be any reduction of work hours.
(AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

MADISON, Wis (WFRV)–The press box at Camp Randall stadium won’t be moving and shaking during the 4th quarter “jump around” this fall, but there will be football in Madison. 

The Big 10 announced today that they will be moving forward with a plan in place to start a shortened schedule in late October.   

“We’ll have two crossover games that we have to determine.  When those crossover games will be played, will have to be determined,” says Athletic Director Barry Alvarez. “Prior to this, we’ve had a number of discussions with the coaches involved, and how we wanted to deal with it. So we’ll go back to those discussions. You know, we initially had that one schedule that we released, so we’ll get with the Big Ten to find out how we’ll move forward with it.”

In a press conference on Wednesday, the former Badgers head coach said there is a possibility that Wisconsin could play games on both Friday or Monday, but that will be decided in conjunction with their television contracts in mind. Alvarez also said that he agreed with both the original decision to postpone the season and the reversal that has taken place.

“The bottom line is we’re going to play football. The decisions were made for the right reasons. The postponement was made for the right reasons for the safety of our student-athletes. I think our chancellors and presidents acted prudently. They made the right decision at the time. They were open-minded enough to sit back and look at the answers, and the solutions for the questions that they had. And quite frankly, at the time there were a number of them, and I agreed with them, the questions that were proposed to them, the medical questions that were out there” added Alvarez. 

“Without them being answered, there was no way we could put our student-athletes back on the field. But now we have answers. The testing is an answer, dealing with the heart situation, we have answers to that. Protocol, contract tracing is answered. All of those were answered and that’s in the end, that’s the reason we move forward. Because the safety questions were answered. The medical questions were answered by our doctors.”

The Badgers football team wasn’t in full training camp status when the original decision was made to postpone the season, and while they were practicing as many safe habits as possible, there were questions left unanswered regarding the coronavirus.

“I think our guys have been addressed. My initial concerns were how do you meet, how do you practice, how do you keep social distancing? Not while you practice, but in meetings and all the situations you have close quarters. And our coaches have answered those,” says Alvarez. “I watch enough TV, with the different highlights and different teams and what the pros are doing. I think everyone has learned through this pandemic, how you alter what you’ve done in the past. And to me that’s the most difficult thing is, it’s not the status quo, this is what we’ve done before. This is how we meet. This is how we are going to practice. It’s all been altered. And so to me, that was the hardest thing. Adjusting your players and coaches to a change, in how you go about your day to day routine.”

The man who built the Badgers into a perennial top 25 team and a program that continually competes for a Big 10 championship understands that some may wonder if this is more about money, but playing football on television won’t completely solve all of their financial issues.

“I can tell you it will affect us some, and it will help some, but we will still not sell tickets to the public. The COPC, our chancellors, and presidents. We came to the agreement that we will not have fans in the stands, other than parents of the players and the staff. That’s still 80,000 seats in the stadium that we don’t have, so it still will affect us greatly.”

In July, Alvarez said the school’s athletic department faces a potential $100 million loss of revenue in its $140 million budget due to challenges brought about by the pandemic.

Alvarez also had a press release that stated, “I am thrilled for our student-athletes, coaches, support staff and fans that Big Ten football – specifically BADGER FOOTBALL – will return in October. I want to thank Chancellor Blank for her support and thoughtfulness as we navigate these challenging situations on a daily basis, I supported the conference’s decision a month ago to postpone our fall sports seasons. There was enough question in the minds of the conference’s presidents, chancellors, and medical personnel to make the decision to not go forward. Over the past several weeks, we have learned a lot and significantly improved testing and tracing capabilities. What I have seen and heard gives me confidence going forward. The health and well-being of our student-athletes and staff remains our top priority, so we will continue to emphasize proper protocols and smart decision-making.  I have spoken with Coach Chryst and we both feel good about having our team ready to play when the time comes.”

University of Wisconsin–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank added, “The health and safety of our student-athletes and coaching staff has always been my biggest concern when thinking about playing a Big Ten Football season this year. These concerns led the Big Ten Council of Chancellors and Presidents (COP/C) to postpone the season in August. Since that time, many people have worked hard to answer the questions and concerns that resulted in postponement. My fellow presidents and chancellors have had extensive conversations with doctors and medical advisors and believe that a testing plan that relies on daily, rapid testing of all student-athletes and coaching staff is now feasible and affordable. Medical advisors to the Big Ten have produced clear protocols for testing, isolation, and return to play. They also have a protocol to check any athletes who become ill for heart-related problems. With these protocols, the health concerns that I had in August have been allayed. The Big Ten has also agreed to pay for the testing, which will be done in a uniform manner in all schools.”

On Tuesday, Chancellor Blank said Big Ten football would remain on hold until there are answers to questions about COVID-19 testing and tracing, along with possible long-term heart issues related to the coronavirus.

“Above all, I support our coaches and student-athletes and want them to have the opportunity to safely compete, if possible,” Blank continued on Wednesday. “I believe the plan put forward by the Return to Competition Committee, with its extensive safety protocols and tight controls, allows that to happen.  I’m particularly grateful to Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, who led the Return to Competition Committee, which developed a viable schedule. While football will probably begin competition before other sports, these protocols will cover all sports. Updates regarding fall sports other than football, as well as winter sports that begin in the fall, will be announced by the Big Ten soon. There are still many details to be worked out, but I will be happy to see the Badgers return to competition in 2020.”

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