Big Ten shifts focus to spring: ‘It can be done’

The Big Ten is forging ahead on a plan to play college football this spring. Coaches put forth a proposal on a conference call Thursday morning that includes an early January start date, with the traditional “fall camp” training period coming in December.

Purdue coach Jeff Brohm isolated himself at Lake Freeman on Wednesday and came up with his own nine-page plan that he released to the media on Thursday morning.

It’s uncertain where the conference will end up with a spring schedule. But as the Big Ten watches with interest as the ACC, SEC and Big 12 attempt to navigate their way to start a season in the fall, the Big Ten has made its sentiment clear — the spring can work. 

“I wanted to get some optimism out there,” Brohm said in a phone interview on Thursday morning. “We all want to play. I’m disappointed that all the Power Five conferences didn’t work together and make a decision in conjunction. To me, then you feel better about where you are at.”

Ohio State coach Ryan Day gave the outline of a plan in a Zoom call on Monday that included a training camp in December and a season that begins in early January and continues through March. One of the key tenets would be keeping the 2021 fall season whole, as the spring season would potentially end early enough to allow players to recover and play a full season later in the year.

That would give draft-eligible players time to recover from the season and allow NFL prospects the incentive to not just sign with agents and declare for the draft. The games could potentially be played at domed stadiums around the Midwest to avoid inclement weather.

The potential date of traditional postseason events like the NFL combine (early March) and draft (late April) become giant factors for college football going forward.

An NFL spokesman declined comment on the NFL draft when Yahoo Sports reached out on Thursday. All that’s certain is that there’s a line in the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that says that draft can be held as late as June 2. (It can also be held as early as Feb. 14.) Flexibility from the NFL appears to be available.

The Big Ten logo on a yard marker during a game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Indiana Hoosiers on Nov. 10, 2018. (G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)The Big Ten logo on a yard marker during a game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Indiana Hoosiers on Nov. 10, 2018. (G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)

In a phone interview on Thursday morning, Brohm made clear that he wasn’t trying to declare he’d come up with the definitive plan that the Big Ten should follow. Instead, he wanted to get ideas and ideals down on paper to help the Big Ten push forward. “I wanted to get something going to give us hope for the future,” Brohm said. “The times and dates weren’t the biggest concerns as much as ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’”

Dial into Brohm’s plan and there’s a lot of pragmatic ideas about health and safety and how to manage the wear and tear on the bodies of college athletes. Brohm’s plan would include eight games this spring and then 10 games that start in early October 2021.

Brohm wrote in his plan that many teams begin workouts and then spring practice shortly after their bowl games each year. He’s proposing “up to 4.5 months” off between the final game this spring and the first football practice in September. 

Perhaps most important to Brohm are the ways to protect players from injury and avoid wearing them down. It includes a proposal for only one padded football practice a week in both the spring and the fall, and no traditional spring practice in 2022. Brohm details how over a two-season span, the number of padded practices would be reduced from 144 padded practices to 64 padded practices. By giving the players the spring of 2022 off, it would mark a seven-month break from practice.

“Those are the main things,” Brohm said. “The amount of padded practices, the amount of contact and the amount of wear and tear on the body.”

Isolating at Lake Freeman, where cell service is a rumor, Brohm wasn’t aware that the Big Ten had put together a subcommittee of coaches and athletic directors to put together a plan for the fall. There had been little talk among the coaches about what a spring could look like, as they hadn’t even spoken about what the fall could look if there was a postponement until the night before the Big Ten postponed the season.

“That’s why I wanted to bury my head in it,” Brohm said of the schedule. “There had not been any true discussion of the details of a spring season. I’m excited that the Big Ten has already gone to work on it. I’m looking forward to working with them.” 

Brohm said that the schedule was a nice distraction from the gutting disappointment of the fall season being canceled.

“I was as mad as anyone the day before, disappointed and angry,” Brohm said. “Our players felt the same frustration. … I’m 100 percent open to other ideas and proposals. I wanted to put out what I had in my head. Whatever way we want to do it, it can be done.”

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