The Big Ten officially announced the return of football Wednesday morning, with an expected start for the weekend of Oct. 23.
Illinois athletics wasted no time and scheduled a news conference via zoom shortly after the announcement.
Here’s what head coach Lovie Smith, athletic director Josh Whitman and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Robert Jones had to say.
Head Coach Lovie Smith
- “We as a football team we’re just thankful for our leadership.” Smith thanked both Chancellor Jones and Whitman for their time and work that they put into this.
- On keeping the team in check when they’re off the football field and any changes: “It’s not like we’re going to have to change up an awful lot of what we do. To do your job as a teammate, you’ve got to take care of your business off the field. I have all the confidence in the world our guys will do that.”
- “Now, it does mean something. It’s really hard to keep training when you don’t know exactly when you’re going to play. Now that we have that, we’re going to get after it.”
Director of Athletics Josh Whitman
- “We’ve had a number of hard days the last six months. This is not one of them.”
- “I know how badly they want to play, and I know how much today’s decision means to them.”
- “I do feel a tremendous amount of gratitude today to a lot of people who have helped us get to this point.” Whitman thanked Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and the Big Ten staff, as well as all Big Ten Athletic Directors and coaches. He also gave appreciation to the medical professionals across the conference who helped put the testing plan into place.
- Whitman thanked Chancellor Robert Jones saying: “His leadership has been unflappable. I can’t say enough about his willingness to listen, to engage with me and others in hard conversations.”
- On the biggest challenge they have faced through this time: “The challenge of really working through some of these difficult issues and difficult conversations in privacy.”
- “As a society, we have to learn how to live in this environment. I think sports can provide one model or example of how to do that.”
- On the journey to get here and the criticism they faced: “We always learn from both the good decisions we make and sometimes the decisions we’d like to do over.”
- “As a society, we have to learn how to live in this environment. I think sports can provide one model of how to do that.”
Chancellor Robert Jones
- “It was scientific data and information that led us to make one of the most difficult decisions” in my four decades in higher education.”
- “That decision was driven by good science and the data that we have at the time. It was a difficult decision.”
- What the game changer for him was: “Whether or not we would be able to do regular testing, [and] testing at a scale with rapid turnaround times.”