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Big Ten Postpones Fall Football Season, Will Attempt to Play in Spring 2021

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The Big Ten announced Tuesday it has postponed fall sports, including football, due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

The conference will attempt to hold competitions in spring 2021.

"The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward," Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. "As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.

"Although that knowledge made this a painstaking decision, it did not make it difficult. While I know our decision today will be disappointing in many ways for our thousands of student-athletes and their families, I am heartened and inspired by their resilience, their insightful and discerning thoughts, and their participation through our conversations to this point. Everyone associated with the Big Ten Conference and its member institutions is committed to getting everyone back to competition as soon as it is safe to do so."

The fall sports postponed also include men's and women's cross country, field hockey, football, men's and women's soccer, and women's volleyball. Decisions regarding winter and spring sports will also continue to be evaluated. 

The historic move comes amid heavy debate over the future of the season. The first domino fell when the Mid-American Conference postponed all sports on Saturday. The Big Ten followed with an announcement that it was pausing its scheduled progression to full-pads football practices. On Sunday, Sources told Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger and Pat Forde that high-level conference meetings are being planned for this week across the sport with the expected resolution of postponing fall sports until 2021

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Despite conference leaders' discussions over possibly canceling the season, a group of Power 5 football players announced Sunday that they hope to create a College Football Players Association. The "We Want to Play" hashtag began circulating on social media, and top quarterbacks like Ohio State's Justin Fields and Clemson's Trevor Lawrence were among its supporters.

On Monday, several Big Ten coaches joined the growing movement of those advocating for football to be played this fall. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh released a letter detailing the Wolverines' health and safety guidelines, saying, "the virus can be controlled and handled."

"This isn't easy. This is hard," Harbaugh wrote. "It is proven that the conduct, discipline and structure without our program have led to these stellar results. We respect the challenge that the virus has presented however we will not cower from it."

Nebraska's Scott Frost took it one step further and said the Huskers were "prepared to look for other options" if the Big Ten cancels the season. Later, Ohio State's Ryan Day echoed the same sentiment during an interview with ESPN.

The discussion over playing college football this fall has grown throughout the summer. All Power 5 conferences have already tweaked their scheduling models to reduce traveling and the number of games played during the pandemic. The Big Ten was set to play a 10-game, conference-only schedule this fall and even shifted some rivalry games to earlier weeks, including Ohio State and Michigan playing on Oct. 24.

The Big Ten's postponement could be the tipping point for other conferences to reach the same decision. The Pac-12 chancellors and presidents also met Tuesday to discuss the fate of their football season.