COLUMBUS (WCMH) — During Tuesday’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump took credit for saving Big Ten football. Wednesday, the White House is standing by that assertion.
During Tuesday’s first debate of the presidential election, while discussing the economy, Trump mentioned how he brought back the economy following the spring shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“By the way, I brought back Big Ten football,” the president said. “It was me, and I’m very happy to do it and the people of Ohio are very proud of me,” before being drowned out by moderator Chris Wallace trying to get the debate back on topic.
The Big Ten announced on Sept. 16 that it would start a nine-week season beginning Oct. 23.
Trump tweeted that day: “Great News: BIG TEN FOOTBALL IS BACK. All teams participate. Thank you to the players, coaches, parents, and all school representatives. Have a FANTASTIC SEASON! It is my great honor to have helped.”
It was a moment that could help Trump on the margins in key states such as Pennsylvania, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin where schools are now scheduled to play their first games less than two weeks before Election Day, said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist.
At least one Big Ten university president said Trump had nothing to do with the decision.
“President Trump had nothing to do with our decision and did not impact the deliberations,” said the president of a Big Ten university who asked not to be identified. “In fact, when his name came up, it was a negative, because no one wanted this to be political.”
A White House spokesperson Wednesday again asserted that the president did play a key role in the decision.
On August 11th, the Big Ten voted 11-3 to cancel their college football season. It was a done deal—there was no path forward. The President refused to accept this outcome, which would have deprived thousands of student-athletes of the opportunity to play the sports they love. He called Commissioner Warren on September 1st, encouraged him to reconsider his decision, and offered federal resources to empower the Big Ten to open. At the direction of President Trump, the White House engaged in daily conversations with players, parents, universities, and conference officials. This effort, totaling over 300 calls and messages, played a critical role in restoring the Big Ten season. Without the President’s efforts, and without his elevation of the debate to the national level, the Big Ten season would still be cancelled. President Trump will continue to encourage sports leagues to return, and stands ready to supply any federal resources needed to protect the health and safety of players, staff, and fans.-John Horstman, White House Director of Media Affairs