- The Big Ten has announced that it will play a ‘conference only’ schedule for all fall sports including football due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Ivy League announced it would cancel all fall sports earlier this week.
- The expectation is that other conferences will announce a similar plan.
Although the hope was that the COVID-19 pandemic would have abated sufficiently to allow football to proceed as usual this Fall that will not be the case. On Thursday, the Big Ten conference announced that it would play a ‘conference only’ schedule in all fall sports including football. The uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic and everything stemming from it made the decision necessary.
In announcing the decision the Big Ten released this statement:
“We are facing uncertain and unprecedented times, and the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, game officials, and others associated with our sports programs and campuses remain our number one priority.”
“… By limiting competition to other Big Ten institutions, the Conference will have the greatest flexibility to adjust its own operations throughout the season and make quick decisions in real-time based on the most current evolving medical advice and the fluid nature of the pandemic.”
The Big Ten is the first ‘Power Five’ conference to alter their 2020 schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Note that there’s no guarantee that fall sports won’t be cancelled as the conference intimated in their statement:
“If the Conference is able to participate in fall sports (men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball) based on medical advice, it will move to Conference-only schedules in those sports,”
That ‘if’ looms large. Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren told the Big Ten network that a scenario with no fall sports–including football–remains on the table:
“This is not a fait accompli that we’re going to have sports in the fall. We may not have sports in the fall. We may not have a college football season in the Big Ten.”
“We just wanted to make sure this was the next logical step to try and rely on our medical experts to keep our student athletes at the center of all of our decisions and make sure they are as healthy as they can possibly be from a mental, physical and emotional wellness standpoint.”
So what will the other Power Five conferences do? The ACC has already pushed the start of fall sports back to September 1 and are still considering a conference only schedule. The Big 12 is taking a ‘wait and see‘ approach. The SEC had no immediate comment but are expected to make a decision on any revisions to their schedule by the end of July. A ‘conference only’ schedule is possible there. Word is that the Pac-12 will be the next major conference to announce a ‘conference only’ slate. An official announcement is expected early next week.
There has been talk about pushing the college football season back to spring in hopes of playing a full schedule. The Big Ten clearly isn’t interested in that scenario. At this point, it’s difficult to speculate how all of this will play out. Most schools haven’t figured out what to do about the fall academic calendar, let alone how do deal with sports. At the very least, the state of the college football season as we’ve known it in the past is tenuous at best.