COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Big Ten athletic directors support removing the conference’s six-game minimum requirement for teams to be eligible to play for the league championship, and a vote is expected Wednesday to make it official.
Removing the minimum would clear the way for No. 3 Ohio State (5-0) to play in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 19 against No. 15 Northwestern.
A person with knowledge of the Big Ten’s discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday that before the rule can officially be changed it must be voted on by ADs, senior women’s administrators and presidents.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the Big Ten was not making its internal discussions public.
The conference determined before the season that teams would have to play six of their eight scheduled games to qualify for the championship game. But Ohio State — No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings and the conference’s best team — has missed three games because of COVID-19 issues, leaving it one short.
Movement on the rule Wednesday came a day after Michigan, citing a spike in COVID-19 cases, canceled its annual showdown with Ohio State scheduled for Saturday, leaving college football without one of its cornerstone rivalry games.
The Buckeyes played through what coach Ryan Day called a “mini outbreak” last Saturday in a 52-12 win at Michigan State after he was relegated to watching the game from home. Day is among the coaches and players in the program who tested positive for the coronavirus, leading to Ohio State canceling a game at Illinois. The Buckeyes were unable to play an earlier game because of an outbreak at Maryland.
While outbreaks have disrupted more than 100 games across major college football since late August, the cancelation of the Ohio-State-Michigan game mattered because the undefeated Buckeyes have championship goals again this season.
Falling a game short of the threshold set by the league, the Buckeyes would have been outside looking in on the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis. Ohio State has won the last four conference titles.
The change was made at the expense of surprising Indiana (6-1), which would have gone to the title game if the six-game rule had remained intact. The No. 9 Hoosiers and Purdue both halted practices this week because of COVID-19 issues, likely putting their game Saturday in jeopardy.
Day suggested on Tuesday that the conference’s six-game rule needed to be “looked at hard” to allow the Buckeyes in. He argued the rule was made early, before the pandemic caused delays and pauses that led to improvisational changes throughout the season.