Big Ten plan to play college football in early 2021 includes using NFL domed stadiums

The Big Ten is considering several domes as sites for a potential football season starting early in 2021, The Columbus Dispatch has learned.

Amanda Babb, the president of the Ohio State football parents group, said in an interview Wednesday that she had heard that indoor stadiums in Indianapolis, St. Louis, Detroit, Minneapolis and possibly even Syracuse, New York, were under consideration as venues. Games are not expected to be played on campus in the proposed schedule that could start in January.

Later Wednesday, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith confirmed the plan, texting “Yes and others” when asked about those potential sites. He declined to add details.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields tries to avoid Wisconsin defenders during the first half in the 2019 Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Photo: Thomas J. Russo, USA TODAY Sports)

The Big Ten announced on Aug. 11 that it would not play fall sports because of the coronavirus pandemic. The conference said it would pursue the possibility of an early 2021 season, though it provided no details.

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In an Aug. 19 statement, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said a task force for a winter/spring season would be formed. It included new Ohio State president Dr. Kristina Johnson.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day has been a vocal proponent of a winter replacement season starting in early January, rather than one that starts in the spring. The later the season, the less time there would be between that and the regular fall season.

It’s also more likely that elite players with professional football aspirations would play in a season that started in January than in the spring. The NFL draft is scheduled for April, and it’s highly probable that top pro prospects would elect to prepare for the draft than play a spring college season.

Playing in domes would eliminate one of the major issues for having a winter season, especially in northern-most Big Ten schools, including Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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