Madison mayor among those asking Big Ten not to schedule late kickoffs due to social gathering concerns

MADISON, Wis. — Madison mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway is joining 10 other mayors from Big Ten cities in asking the conference to take additional steps to fight COVID-19 as football season gets underway this weekend.

Mayors from 11 Big Ten cities met last week to talk about their plans for the season and share ideas on what has worked in their communities when it comes to limiting the spread of the virus in social settings.

Rhodes-Conway joined mayors from East Lansing, Michigan; College Park, Maryland; State College, Pennsylvania; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Evanston, Illinois; West Lafayette, Indiana; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bloomington, Indiana; Iowa City, Iowa; and Columbus, Ohio in signing a letter to the conference making several requests after that meeting.

They want to see the conference work with local health officials to define population positivity benchmarks that would determine when it was no longer safe to host a game due to increased community activity. They’re also asking the conference to make their scheduled kickoff times known well in advance — currently the conference has typically announced start times about two weeks before a scheduled game — and to host as few games as possible in the late afternoon or evenings to discourage social gatherings to watch games on TV.

Wisconsin is set to play the first Big Ten game of the season this Friday night at Camp Randall Stadium. No fans will be in the stands and no tailgating will be allowed, but health officials have warned against large gatherings to watch the game on the Big Ten Network.

“While we all appreciate our college and university sports programs and the economic and community benefits that they provide, the COVID-19 crisis is far from over and we are expecting some potential new obstacles as a result of the upcoming football season,” East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens said in a statement. “We hope that by continuing to work with our individual colleges and universities, our public health officials and the Big Ten Conference, we can be as prepared as possible for the return of football in our communities.”