The Big Ten Conference announced on Wednesday that it would resume football starting on Oct. 23 after it was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Players and staff will be tested daily for COVID-19, and any athletes who test positive must remain out of competition for 21 days.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpBarr criticizes DOJ in speech declaring all agency power ‘is invested in the attorney general’ Military leaders asked about using heat ray on protesters outside White House: report Powell warns failure to reach COVID-19 deal could ‘scar and damage’ economy MORE hailed the decision and said it was a “great honor” to have helped, though it was unclear what role, if any, he played in the conference’s reversal.
Trump spoke with the conference’s commissioner, Kevin Warren, on Sept. 1 and acknowledged this week that he was putting “a lot of pressure on” for the football season to return.
“Frankly, because there was no reason for it not to come back,” Trump said on Wednesday.
After the call with Warren, Trump directed White House staff to provide any federal resources the conference needed, a senior administration official told ABC News.
The ability to secure enough COVID-19 tests was “key,” the official said.
“Probably for political reasons, it was easy for the Big Ten to convince their presidents to vote for it, if it wasn’t going to be provided by this White House,” the official added.
Ultimately, the Big Ten sources the tests from a private company instead, the network noted.
Trump’s interest in the Big Ten was spurred by calls from players and their parents for the season to resume, the senior administration official told ABC News.
Decisions to resume collegiate sports have been highly politicized in recent weeks.
The president and Republican lawmakers have repeatedly chastised states and universities for not allowing in-person learning and football to commence.
Trump’s fixation on the conference is reflects the upcoming election. Schools in battleground states Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio all compete in the Big Ten.
The president has not vocally pushed for the Pac-12 Conference, which hosts schools on the West Coast like California and Washington, to resume football season.
The Hill has requested comment from the White House on the ABC News report.
–This report was updated at 7:53 a.m.