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The Big Ten called an audible this week, reversing field and announcing football will be played starting the weekend of Oct. 24.

The 2020 college athletic experience has been like sitting on a bed of nails while riding a rollercoaster seated between a screaming Urkel and that woman from "The Nanny."

But the last five weeks for some of the smartest university leaders in the country have been surreal — even by 2020 standards. In early August, the Big Ten announced conference games only and even released a revamped schedule. Less than a week later, it said fall sports would be played in 2021.

Cue the outrage, especially from the nearly unanimous support and desire to play from, you know, the players and coaches, which prompted the Big Ten to double down on its decision, refusing to revisit their call.

Wednesday morning, it was revisited and officially reversed.

The big question is why, right? Why now, and why the dramatic 180?

Big Ten leaders are quick to say that things are better, testing is better, policies are safer and they feel comfortable with the return.

OK, but for that dramatic of a turn, will they share their notable breakthroughs in our fight against COVID-19? Because to go from a mid-August hard "no" to a mid-September "Game On!" sounds a whole like they found a cancer cure.

Don't misconstrue this: I thought the Big Ten should have explored every way possible to get on the field. That's the same way I feel about the sacrifices made by local high school coaches, parents and players to give players a chance to write their own histories and make their own memories.

We've lost so much in this that any victory, no matter how small, should be celebrated. And for all these players, especially high school and college seniors, who desperately wanted to play, this is a win.

So, it goes back to why and, maybe more specifically, why now?

Well, it certainly was not because of national sports commentators who often appear to be rooting for the coronavirus at times — like USA Today's Christine Brennan, the Hall of Fame sports columnist who said the Big Ten is now as bad as the big, bad SEC and sold its soul to return to football.

She went as far as telling her 42,000-plus Twitter followers to mark the date, because it was the darkest day in Big Ten history. Wow, is she going to be shocked when someone reminds her that Jerry Sandusky's acts of evil and Dr. Larry Nassar and his serial sexual assaults both happened at Big Ten schools.

As for Wednesday's decision, let's look at the power of P and how it forced some very smart folks to see the light and look for ways to play.

There was pressure from players — and those players' parents. There was the precedent from conferences such as the ACC, the SEC and the Big 12, all of which are plowing through outbreaks and adhering to safety protocols in an effort to play.

There is the president and, rest assured, Donald Trump is going to sprint several victory laps about his role — whether it was large or small appears less clear — and his phone calls to the Big Ten to get football to return.

There is the poultry possibility, that the Big Ten played a game of chicken and thought all the other conferences would pull the plug because of peer pressure when they postponed in August.

And there are the profits. The TV dollars are one thing — and yes, they are one pretty big thing — but the ability to have a team in the college football playoff and the tens of millions of dollars that comes with that is another.

So is that selling your soul? I don't think so when the players are universally asking — if not begging — to play. But it is bringing back the lifeblood to the Big Ten, for its athletes of all sports — football pays for almost everything, friends, at every scholastic level — as well as its students and its fans.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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Jay Greeson
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