Donald Trump used Tuesday’s presidential debate to take credit for the return of the Big Ten 2020 football season.
Trump’s claim came as he and Joe Biden’s debate turned to the U.S. economy; he said he was a big reason the conference decided to reverse course and bring back football before the start of the spring academic year.
“By the way, I brought back Big Ten football,” Trump said. “It was me, and I’m very happy to do it and the people of Ohio are very proud of me.”
The Big Ten on Aug. 11 announced it would postpone its 2020 season due to concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic; it was later revealed the cancellation was decided by an 11-3 vote of Big Ten presidents and chancellors (with only Nebraska, Ohio State and Iowa dissenting). Little more than a month later, the Big Ten announced it would resume football in the fall. That same day, Trump tweeted that it was his “great honor to have helped.”
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!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 16, 2020
While the Big Ten confirmed that Trump spoke on the phone with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren on Aug. 31, Trump has overstated his role in football’s return: Warren did not make a unilateral decision to postpone the conference’s fall season, nor did he make the decision to resume in October (that was decided by a unanimous vote of Big Ten chancellors and presidents).
According to a report by USA Today’s Dan Wolken — citing sources with knowledge of Trump and Warren’s discussion — the Big Ten did not request or accept any resources from the White House to help the conference return to football sooner. Instead, university presidents and chancellors made their decision based on information provided to them by the conference’s “Return to Competition Task Force.”
Moreover, a Big Ten president — speaking on the condition of anonymity — told NBC News on Sept. 16 that Trump did not affect deliberations among Big Ten university presidents and chancellors.
“President Trump had nothing to do with our decision and did not impact the deliberations,” the anonymous president said. “In fact, when his name came up, it was a negative, because no one wanted this to be political.”