CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The Big Ten Conference has halted the progression of its most recent plan for the beginning of football practices.
The league office announced Saturday morning football practices throughout the 14 schools will not be permitted to consist of full-contact workouts/scrimmage with pads. Players will only be allowed in helmets and shorts until the Big Ten officials deem it safe to progress to the final stage of full-padded contact practices.
Illinois had been scheduled to have its first day in full pads Saturday but University of Illinois athletics spokesperson Kent Brown confirmed to Illini Now/Sports Illustrated that Illini head coach Lovie Smith’s staff were informed of this league ruling in plenty of time before Saturday morning's practice session was to start. No school will be able to be permitted to do anything beyond helmets and shorts, as they had done for the first two days of practice on Thursday and Friday until the league office deems it safe enough to progress to the final practice phase.
"The Big Ten Conference announced today, based on the advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, that, until further notice, all institutions will remain in the first two days of the acclimatization period in football (i.e., helmets shall be the only piece of protective equipment student-athletes may wear) as we continue to transition prudently through preseason practice,” the league’s statement reds. “All other fall sports will continue to work locally with team physicians and athletic trainers to adjust practices to the appropriate level of activity, as necessary, based on current medical protocols. Each new phase of activity provides new intelligence and experience and allows us to evaluate the implementation of our Conference and institutional medical protocols in real-time. In order to make the right health and safety decisions for our student-athletes, we believe it is best to continue in the appropriate phase of activity referenced above while we digest and share information from each campus to ensure we are moving forward cautiously. We understand there are many questions regarding how this impacts schedules, as well as the feasibility of proceeding forward with the season at all. As we have consistently stated, we will continue to evaluate daily, while relying on our medical experts, to make the best decisions possible for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes."
The Illini have less than a month to prepare for a scheduled season opener on Thursday night Sept. 3 against Big Ten defending champion Ohio State, who was ranked No. 2 in the preseason USA Today Coaches poll released Thursday morning.