Biden, Trump, college football and the election

How college football has become a campaign point in the race for the highest office in the land

As the 2020 election approaches, each respective nominee has been continually campaigning to win the support of undecided voters. Among many other strategies in his reelection campaign, President Donald Trump has been lobbying for the return of college football in the Big Ten conference. 

“I want Big Ten, and all other football, back — NOW,” Trump tweeted on Aug. 28. 

The Big Ten is one of two major athletic conferences that originally decided to cancel football and other fall sports. This caught the attention of Trump and faced widespread criticism.

“The [virus] attacks old people very viciously. These football players are very young, strong people, physically,” Trump said in an interview. “I mean, they’re physically in extraordinary shape. So, they’re not going to have a problem. You’re not going to see people – could there be, could it happen? But I doubt it. You’re not going to see people dying. And many people get it and they have … like kids they get it they have the sniffles. Young kids, almost none have a serious problem with it.” 

The other major conference who canceled their season—the Pac-12—has received little-to-no attention from Trump. This may be due to the political geography of the respective schools. The Big Ten is largely composed of schools in Midwestern swing states—Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, etc.—while the Pac-12 is predominately made up of typically “blue” states, such as California, Oregon, and Washington. Trump may have sensed a political opportunity to win over voters in these swing states, in many of which he currently trails.

College football is widely popular amongst Trump’s base. According to a 2017 study by FiveThirtyEight, college football was the men’s sport most searched for in pro-Trump areas compared to pro-Clinton areas.

“The promise of a return to normalcy has been central to Trump’s reelection pitch from the earliest days of the pandemic, so it’s no surprise that he would seize on America’s second most popular sport – a signpost of autumn and a pastime regarded as a vanguard of conservative values – during the run-up to his showdown with Democratic challenger Joe Biden,” Bryan Armen Graham wrote in The Guardian.

Trump’s opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., responded with a 15-second campaign video posted on the campaign’s YouTube channel. The video denounces Trump, showing an empty stadium and claiming that “Trump put America on the sidelines.”

Recently, the Big Ten conference has decided to resume their football season, starting on the weekend of Oct. 23 to Oct. 24. 

“Great News: BIG TEN FOOTBALL IS BACK. All teams to participate. Thank you to the players, coaches, parents, and all school representatives. Have a FANTASTIC SEASON! It is my great honor to have helped!!!” Trump tweeted.

However, Trump received criticism from many about just how involved he was with the final decision. After the announcement was made, a university’s president stated that the President did not influence the Big Ten’s reversal. 

“President Trump had nothing to do with our decision and did not impact the deliberations,” the president of a Big Ten university, who asked not to be identified, said in an interview with NBC News. “In fact, when his name came up, it was a negative, because no one wanted this to be political.”

A huge contributing factor in the Big Ten’s decision to return was the emergence of new rapid testing protocols and updated advice from medical professionals. 

“The medical advice changes. The facts changed and our minds changed,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said.