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‘They need to step up’: Gov. Evers wants Big Ten to invest in safe viewing campaign

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Less than four weeks from the start of a delayed, abbreviated Big Ten season, the overcast skies and crisp air signaled the arrival of football weather at Camp Randall Stadium Sunday.

While the 2020 season is scheduled to occur without fans, the Badger Band, or university-sponsored tailgates, Governor Tony Evers said he believes the Big Ten Conference should do more to discourage fans from having large watch parties or crowding bars to watch games, which begin the weekend of October 23-24.

"The Big Ten is spending a lot of money to bring football back into play and they're spending a lot of money for the testing and other things of football players," Evers said Thursday. "They need to step up and have a significant stake in this game."

The Big Ten has touted its rapid and frequent testing program for players and staff. It will also keep a database that tracks the long-term effects COVID-19 might have on the hearts of affected players.

UW Health Chief Quality Officer Dr. Jeff Pothof said the established policies for Wisconsin games are a good start but noted restrictions only matter if they're monitored and enforced.

"What do you hear versus what do you see? It's kind of that," Pothof said. "It's one thing for me to promise you something, it's another thing for me to deliver on it."

Pothof said the Big Ten's return to play procedures are a good way to keep the teams themselves protected from outbreaks, but added his biggest concern all along has been games serving as super-spreader events with the temptation for people to gather in large numbers at homes or bars.

"Yeah, there's some concern over the players and the teams but the larger concern is probably, you know, what do those events actually do to the community as far as gathering and things like that," Pothof said. "Not necessarily what's happening on the field but going on off the field."

Evers said he believed the Big Ten should invest a significant amount of money in a "PR campaign" to remind fans not to gather in large numbers on game days. He noted he was encouraged by the Packers having already played two games without any known super-spreader events tracing back to Packer parties, including the September 19 home opener at Lambeau Field, which was played without spectators.

"I was also concerned about the Packer game last weekend and it seemingly went pretty well without major problems of large groups of people all over the place," Evers said.

Pothof also said it's a plus to not have any known super-spreader events tied to either college or pro football games. But he added it was too soon to make any conclusions just two weeks into the season and with flu season approaching.

"It's too soon in the sense that it'll take very little to have one of those events but, I mean, not having them already does show there is some thought into what they're doing," Pothof said.

Wisconsin is scheduled to open its 2020 season against Illinois October 24 at Camp Randall. It is one of four home dates currently on the Badgers schedule.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

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