Last week, Ohio State fans were fuming about a reported dust-up between Jim Harbaugh and Ryan Day on a Big Ten conference call.
Buckeyes fans were counting down the days until Oct. 24 . Surely, Day would deliver on his reported promise to drop 100 on the Wolverines.
Those were the days.
Less than a week later, Buckeyes fans are in Harbaugh’s corner — at least for a day — after news that the Big Ten could announce Tuesday that it is canceling the fall football season.
This is peak 2020, right?
With that potential decision, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, incoming Ohio State president Kristina M. Johnson and Michigan president Mark Schlissel are going to feel the rare force that occurs when the conference’s yin and yang football programs want the same thing.
Could the Big Two alter that decision at the last minute? They are at least going to try — and they have taken to the social media mob to do it.
Harbaugh took the lead on Monday with an Excel-prepared statement full of bullet points. That included the number of tests administered by the football program, and the protocols taken to make football as safe as possible. Harbaugh even walked off with a Teddy Roosevelt quote.
“Our place will not be among the cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Invoking TR is over the top, but that’s Harbaugh. He’s quirky. He can’t beat Ohio State, but you can’t say he’s not trying. He also has been consistent in advocating what is best for the student-athletes during his time at Michigan, and that is the message on the Michigan football Twitter account.
Is playing football in those student-athlete’s best interests? Well, take a sample from the other side with future NFL stars such as quarterback Justin Fields and cornerback Shaun Wade:
Neither one of those team captains needs to play another down on the college level, and they have been at the forefront of football players calling for a season. Ohio State coach Ryan Day retweeted Fields and added a show of support Monday afternoon.
The Big Ten’s Big Two still want to play, and that always carries weight when it comes to football. After all, these two programs generated close to $400 million in combined revenue in 2018-19, and those programs want that money.
Ohio State assistant coach Brian Hartline even retweeted linebacker Teradja Mitchell’s call to join the SEC for a year:
That’s not going to happen, but one would be naive to believe that the Buckeyes and Wolverines collective voices will not be heard before those final decisions are made. The impact of that decision will be felt for years to come, too.
Remember, these programs still bring up the fallout from the Big Ten vote in 1973 that sent Ohio State to the Rose Bowl instead of Michigan after the teams played to a 10-10 tie. Fans on both sides who weren’t even born yet know all about it and how much influence Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler wielded at that time.
How do you think Day and Harbaugh feel now? Both programs are on the same side of a momentous decision. They want to play. The Buckeyes do. They have another national championship contender. The Wolverines do, too. They are trying to break that losing streak to Ohio State. Penn State and Nebraska have loud voices too, but they haven’t been at that Big Ten table nearly as long.
Michigan and Ohio State set the tone, and every social media volley will be retweeted by their rabid fan bases.
They want to play. Who is going to tell them no?
That is the pressure on Warren, Johnson and Schlissel, who could have the unenviable task of telling those coaches, players, alumni and fans that it is not safe to play college football in 2020. That appears to be the right decision — but perhaps more time is needed before making a final decision.
Isn’t that why the schedule was made in advance in the first place? Those are legitimate questions that come in early August. Imagine if the Big Ten says no and there is SEC, ACC and Big 12 football in the fall. That’s not something that would taken lightly in Columbus, Ann Arbor of the other 12 Big Ten campuses. It would be an awful look for the conference’s leadership.
If that happens, then it’s pretty safe to assume Harbaugh and Day would be fired up on the next conference call.
Only they will be on the same side.
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