President Donald Trump tried to take a victory lap Wednesday after the Big Ten Conference announced football will be played this fall — but one university president says the return had nothing to do with the president’s push.
“President Trump had nothing to do with our decision and did not impact the deliberations,” the president of one Big Ten university told NBC News. “In fact, when his name came up, it was a negative because no one wanted this to be political.”
Trump was quick to tout the announcement, tweeting on Wednesday after the conference announced its football would return this fall.
“Great News: BIG TEN FOOTBALL IS BACK,” Trump tweeted. “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!!!”
The president has pushed for sports’ return as he seeks indicators that life is headed toward normalcy as the fall election approaches. Trump continues to see his poll numbers struggle as Americans give him low marks for the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Strategists have warned without football, voters will have a stark reminder that the United States is not recovered.
In a statement, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien called the announcement “huge news, not just for college football fans, but for all Americans looking for key indicators that we can reopen our society and our economy, and do so safely.”
“College football is an enormous part of fall Saturdays for millions of Americans, and it is coming back, thanks in no small part to the leadership of President Trump,” he added.
In the weeks preceding the announcement, Trump posted a series of tweets pushing for the Big Ten’s return. The Big Ten, Pac-12 Conference, and other smaller conferences had earlier announced they would not play football this fall, while other major conferences like the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference continue to plan for a season.
Trump posted earlier this month that he held a “very productive conversation” with the Big Ten’s commissioner on “immediately starting up Big Ten football.”
“On the one yard line!” he added.
As of Wednesday, nearly 197,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, according to an NBC News tracker.
The Big Ten announced Wednesday it will return to the gridiron the weekend of Oct. 23-24, saying that its reversal on playing had to do with improving conditions, particularly as it related to advancements in rapid testing technology.