Big Ten to Play Conference-Only Football Schedule in Fall of 2020; Pac-12 Reportedly Expected to Follow Suit

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The Big Ten conference announced on Thursday that it will play a conference-only football schedule in the fall of 2020. The conference-only season will be 10 games, according to Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde.

As long as it is safe to do so, this decision will apply to all fall sports, the conference said in a press release.

According to ESPN, if college football can be played this fall, Big Ten administrations preferred to play a conference-only schedule to eliminate some long-distance travel and help ensure teams are being tested for COVID-19 universally. 

"In addition, the Conference announced that summer athletic activities will continue to be voluntary in all sports currently permitted to engage in such activities.

"In addition, the Conference announced that summer athletic activities will continue to be voluntary in all sports currently permitted to engage in such activities," the Big Ten said in a statement. "Furthermore, Big Ten student-athletes who choose not to participate in intercollegiate athletics at any time during the summer and/or the 2020-21 academic year due to concerns about COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarship honored by their institution and will remain in good standing with their team."

On a Thursday teleconference with reporters, Ohio State AD Gene Smith said he is no longer "cautiously optimistic" about a football season being held this fall.

The decision comes as a recent spike in coronavirus cases in various parts of the United States have created a new set of hurdles to the 2020 college football season.

The Big Ten also said participation in workouts and other activities this summer will continue to be voluntary. Players can also opt-out of participating in the fall sports season without losing their scholarships or risking their good standing with their program.

Earlier Thursday, the ACC announced that each of its fall sports will delay the start of competition until at least Sept. 1.

The Pac-12 is expected to go to conference-only scheduling in the coming days as well, according to The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach. According to Stadium's Brett McMurphy, ACC football is also expected to play conference-only games. Per McMurphy, if Power 5 schools played conference-only schedules then the ACC would assist Notre Dame with as many games as it needed. According to The Athletic's Bruce Feldman, ACC coaches have been told of a conference-only games plan, though, the coaches have not yet been told it’s definite.

On Friday, ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement that the league will "work on the best possible path forward for the return of competition" in a way that "appropriately coincides with our universities' academic mission," adding that the league anticipates a decision by late July.

On Wednesday, the Ivy League announced that it will play no varsity sports for the rest of the calendar year, and it appears it might try and move fall sports to the spring of 2021.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has previously described the latest spikes as “detrimental” to the process.

“Until two weeks ago, everybody felt pretty good about starting on time on Sept. 5 and Aug. 29,” West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons, the chair of an important law-making NCAA body, the Football Oversight Committee, told Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger. “The last two weeks have really put a wet blanket on that, and we’re saying, ‘Maybe that’s not going to happen.’”

According to Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger, SEC football coaches held their weekly conference call Thursday morning with league officials and currently have no change in practice or game plans.

Some of the notable Big Ten football matchups that will be altered with this schedule change are Ohio State at Oregon, Penn State at Virginia Tech, Michigan at Washington and Notre Dame at Wisconsin, which was scheduled to take place at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.