The Big Ten and PAC-12 conferences, after much speculation over the weekend through Monday, officially postponed all 2020 fall sports seasons, citing ongoing concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both conferences expressed that they are considering playing their fall sports in the spring, but no solid plan or outline for conducting the seasons has been established or revealed.
The Big Ten made its announcement official in a statement:
“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. “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.
“We know how significant the student-athlete experience can be in shaping the future of the talented young women and men who compete in the Big Ten Conference. 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 included in the announcement were football, field hockey, volleyball, men's and women's soccer and men's and women's cross country.
The conference stated that it will continue to monitor the situation in regards to winter and spring sports such as basketball, baseball and softball.
The league also stated that it would attempt to play the sports in the spring, but no plan or outline of how that would be undertaken has been established or revealed.
The Big Ten stated its decision was based on the opinions of medical experts, stemming from advice and counsel from the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.
The conference just last week announced its plans for a 10-game, conference-only football schedule in order to reduce contact.
The Big Ten also stated that it will continue to work with medical experts and government authorities gather additional information to make the best decisions regarding the health and safety of its student-athletes.
The news of the Big Ten postponing fall sports was not met with open arms by every school of the conference. Just minutes after the decision was made public, Nebraska published joint statement joint statement from football coach Scott Frost, Nebraska president Ted Carter and University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor Ronnie Green:
“We are very disappointed in the decision by the Big Ten Conference to postpone the fall football season, as we have been and continue to be ready to play.
“Safety comes first. Based on the conversations with our medical experts, we continue to strongly believe the absolute safest place for our student athletes is within the rigorous safety protocols, testing procedures, and the structure and support provided by Husker Athletics.
“We will continue to consult with medical experts and evaluate the situation as it emerges. We hope it may be possible for our student athletes to have the opportunity to compete.”
The reaction from the three leading men at Nebraska was unprecedented but not unwarranted. However, it only left speculation as to what teams, players and coaches of the Big Ten and PAC-12 will do in the days, weeks and months to come.
According to Nebraska's statement, it is still pursuing options for the school's fall sports to continue competition despite the conference's postponements.
Echoing Nebraska's sentiments, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh released a statement of his own, which was tweeted out by the team's official Twitter profile:
"Our student-athletes and coaches want to compete," Harbaugh said. "They have committed, trained and prepared their entire lives for this opportunity, and I know how much they're disappointed at this time. I share in their disappointment today.
"We have shown over the weeks since returning to campus that we could meet the challenge and provide out student-athletes the opportunity of a fall football season."
While Harbaugh expressed his disappointment as well as his players', the statement made no mention of finding a means to compete in the fall.
Less than two hours after the Big Ten made its decision known, the PAC-12 followed suit.
The PAC-12 CEO Group voted unanimously in favor of postponing all fall sports, but left the option open for possible play in the spring.
“The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our number one priority since the start of this current crisis,” PAC-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “Our student-athletes, fans, staff and all those who love college sports would like to have seen the season played this calendar year as originally planned, and we know how disappointing this is.
“Unlike professional sports, college sports cannot operate in a bubble. Our athletic programs are a part of broader campuses in communities where in many cases the prevalence of COVID-19 is significant. We will continue to monitor the situation and when conditions change we will be ready to explore all options to play the impacted sports in the new calendar year.”
The conference guaranteed that fall student-athletes will retain their scholarships and implored the NCAA to grant them an additional year of eligibility due to the postponement.
Unlike the Big Ten, the PAC-12 made an announcement specifically for winter sports, saying that all sports activity will be postponed until on or after Jan. 1. This meant that all basketball competition for both men's and women's teams has been postponed until 2021 at the earliest.
“We know that this is a difficult day for our student-athletes, and our hearts go out to them and their families,” Scott said. “We have made clear that all of their scholarships will be guaranteed, and that as a Conference we are strongly encouraging the NCAA to grant them an additional year of eligibility.”
In response to the Big Ten and PAC-12's decision, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey issued a statement regarding his thought process heading into the fall football season in what has become a Power 3 conference.
"I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and PAC-12 leadership to take these actions today," Sankey said. "I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 members are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes. We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day."
The ACC also published a similar statement, saying that it will continue to monitor the current situation in order to make the best choice for its student-athletes and staff:
While the SEC and ACC do not have anything specifically scheduled, the Big 12 is slated to host a call between conference athletic directors, school presidents and doctors at 5 p.m. CT.