As the Big Ten mulls the formatting options for its next football season, Tom Allen is like the rest of us.
He has questions.
When will it be safe for players to play? Will a winter or spring season provide a quality experience for all involved? And what about next fall — would shoehorning an abbreviated season into the early portion of the calendar mean shortening the full 12-game 2021 schedule as well?
The answers to those questions, Allen says, are critical.
“As you look at all of the different plans that are out there, obviously there is playing anywhere from January to February, March, April, or however that may look,” Allen said. “That window of time obviously has a lot of different pros and cons to it.”
Indeed, so much remains unsettled from the Big Ten’s move last week to postpone fall sports. About all we know is that the league will not revisit its decision. Now, Allen and his coaching colleagues are left wondering what happens next.
Some things, like how football programs structure their 12-hour work weeks this fall, are in their control. Other things, like how the state of the novel coronavirus will affect the logistics of a new season — whenever it comes — are not. With that in mind, Allen says health and safety protocols will remain his top priority as IU continues with its extended offseason.
“It has to be, no matter what time it is, is it safe for our players to come back and play?” Allen said. “What has changed? What standards are we able to meet now that we have not met in the past that kept us from playing? From a health and safety perspective, we have to make sure that we have all of those things answered, from a testing perspective (to) contact tracing and all of the different issues that were brought up to cause us to be delayed.”
And when the league does emerge with an all-clear signal, Allen wants to make sure that a potential winter or spring season isn’t a gigantic waste of time.
“Whatever window we feel is best, we need to have a quality season that can be a quality experience and allow our players to feel that this is a great thing to do and be a part of,” Allen said.
At the same time, Allen doesn’t want to sacrifice the schedule that’s already on the table for next fall. He’s never been crazy about the concept of playing two seasons in a single calendar year, and he’s especially opposed to the idea if it means lopping off games from the 2021 season.
“I think that is a big variable involved to make sure we are not putting too much of a workload on the body,” Allen said. “That is where the later this goes, the less I feel good about it. I have seen some people talk about having a shortened spring and a shortened fall of 2021 and I would not be in favor of that. I want to see us keep 2021 secure and do the best we can within the other parameters to create a good scenario for this winter or spring.”
But right now, Allen acknowledges, there remains many more questions than answers.