Big Ten Cancels Fall Football, Hopes to Have Spring Football

Photo by Ryan Garza - USA TODAY Sports

Jake Curtis

The first significant decision regarding college football in the fall has been made as the Big Ten announced Tuesday that has canceled all fall sports and will try to play football in the spring.

Now we're waiting for the other shoe to drop, namely the Pac-12, which is also expected to make a decision on fall sports today (Tuesday). Speculation for the past week has been that the Big Ten and Pac-12 will make an announcement in concert this week, so there is reason to believe the Pac-12 will also decide to cancel fall sports and hope to play in the spring. The Pac-12 has a news conference scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Pacific time.

The Big Ten announced the postponement of all-regular-season and conference championships as a result of COVID-19.

The statement said the Big Ten "will continue to evaluate a number of options regarding these [fall] sports, including the possibility of competition in the spring. Decisions regarding winter and spring sports will also continue to be evaluated."

This suggests that no decision has been made regarding basketball.

“Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff,” said Morton Schapiro, Chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University President, said in the onference statement.

The Big Ten statement did not include any specifics as to how athletes and coaches in the fall sports are expected to proceed: Will athletes continue to participate in workouts? Will they continue to be tested for the virus? What are the limitations for practice and other football-related activities?

The Big Ten decision came after heavy public debate about whether football should be played in the fall. Late Sunday night a group of prominent college football players from across the country created and posted a statement that they wanted to play this fall under the heading of #WeWantToPlay.

A number of college football coaches then came out publicly saying they wanted to continue the possibility of playing football in the fall.  

The Mid-American Conference and the Mountain West conference were the first two FBS conferences to cancel fall football, but the Big Ten was the first of the Power 5 conferences to do so.

Whether the Big Ten's decision will lead to a domino effect of other Power 5 conferences remains unclear. Although the Pac-12 seems to be on the verge of postponing its fall football season, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference do not seem ready to give up hope of playing in the fall.

The chair of the ACC Medical Advisory group said football can be played safely in the fall, according to an ESPN.report.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has repeatedly said he sees no reason to rush to a decision on fall football and expects to wait for further information.

The season-opening games in the revised Pac-12 and SEC schedules were both slated for Sept. 26. The first ACC game is scheduled for Sept. 11, and first Big Ten game was scheduled for Sept. 5. The Big 12 seems to be the wild card, because it is unclear which way that conference is leaning.

It leads to the possibility that college football may be played between FBS teams in some parts of the country but not in others.

Here is the entire Big Ten statement posted Tuesday:

The Big Ten Conference announced the postponement of the 2020-21 fall sports season, including all regular-season contests and Big Ten Championships and Tournaments, due to ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In making its decision, which was based on multiple factors, the Big Ten Conference relied on the medical advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.

“Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff,” said Morton Schapiro, Chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University President.

“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,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. “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 this announcement are men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball. The Big Ten Conference will continue to evaluate a number of options regarding these sports, including the possibility of competition in the spring. Decisions regarding winter and spring sports will also continue to be evaluated.

The Big Ten Conference is proud of its 14 world-class research institutions and has leveraged their resources and expertise to address this pandemic over the past five months. The Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee have engaged in extensive research and sharing of materials and conversations with federal, state and local government agencies, and professional and international sports organizations in order to track and better understand the daily updates surrounding this pandemic. Their advice and counsel have been invaluable as they have worked tirelessly over the past several months in their efforts to create and maintain a safe environment for athletics.

The Big Ten Conference will continue to work with medical experts and governmental authorities to gather additional information, evaluate emerging data and technologies, and monitor developments regarding the pandemic to make the best decisions possible for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes.

   

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