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President Trump: Talks with Big Ten leader about 'immediately' starting football 'productive'


Tony Paul   | The Detroit News

President Donald Trump said Tuesday the Big Ten is on the "one-yard line" in an attempt to play football this fall, after announcing last month that its fall sports seasons would be postponed until the spring.

Trump tweeted that he had a conversation with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren "about immediately starting up Big Ten football."

Trump called the discussion "productive."

"Would be good (great!) for everyone — Players, Fans, Country," Trump wrote.

The Big Ten acknowledged the talks in a Tuesday afternoon statement, saying "the Big Ten Conference and its Return to Competition Task Force, on behalf of the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, are exhausting every resource to help student-athletes get back to playing the sports they love, at the appropriate time, in the safest and healthiest way possible."

The White House-Big Ten conversation comes a day after the Big Ten revealed in court in Nebraska that presidents and chancellors voted 11-3 to postpone the fall sports season, with Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa reportedly the only holdouts. Multiple Big Ten presidents, including Michigan State's and Minnesota's, have previously said there was no traditional vote but a consensus.

The Big Ten is politically important to Trump, who in 2016 won in the conference states of Ohio, Nebraska, Iowa and Indiana with close victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that helped him gain the White House. 

In postponing the fall sports season, the Big Ten cited the health and safety of student-athletes, particularly the challenges surrounding testing.

Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories recently received emergency approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration on a rapid test that provides COVID-19 results in 15 minutes. Abbott has said it can produce 50 million a tests a month, starting in October.

The Big Ten was the first Power Five conference to pull the plug on football, followed shortly thereafter by the Pac-12 — a move that many Big Ten schools say could cost them $100 million in revenue and possibly lead to sports cuts (Michigan State has warned about eliminating sports, while Iowa has already done it). The SEC, ACC and Big 12 have vowed to play on this season.

The Big Ten's decision was met immediately with resistance, a pushback that has only grown louder in recent days, with parents of several Big Ten schools, including Michigan, writing letters to Warren to reconsider the decision, and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields starting a petition that has more than 300,000 signatures

A protest of Michigan players, parents and fans is scheduled to take place at the tunnel at Michigan Stadium on Saturday, in what was to be the Wolverines' season opener.

There also was a modest protest by parents at the Big Ten headquarters outside Chicago last month, and then the lawsuit brought by eight Nebraska football players.

The Nebraska football players responded to the Big Ten's brief in court Tuesday, expressing skepticism about how the vote went down, while continuing to chide the conference about a lack of transparency.

Trump has been outspoken in recent weeks on sports, both in terms of sports getting back to action amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and in terms of how athletes are reacting to the racial and social unrest in the country. The Big Ten's geographic footprint includes six swing states ahead of November's presidential election: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and Iowa.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984