Big Ten Postpones Fall Sports

John Bohnenkamp

Six days ago, the Big Ten released its 10-game conference-only football schedule.

On Tuesday, the conference erased everything, and left open the option of playing in the spring.

The conference announced that all fall sports, including football, were postponed because of ongoing health and safety concerns because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Besides football, the decision includes men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball. Decisions regarding winter and spring sports will also continue to be evaluated, the Big Ten announced.

"It's certainly a disappointing day," Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said in a video conference. "We'll all go through a period of just disappointment and hurt here for a while. It's extremely frustrating. It's tough news to hear. But I fully understand and appreciate the decision-making. We have to move forward from this point."

"At the end of the day, the impact of competition during a pandemic, at the highest levels of intercollegiate athletics, is simply unknown," Iowa president Bruce Harreld said in a statement. "The level of physical exertion and contact with other individuals does not occur in any other environment on our campus."

"With the announcement today from the Big Ten Conference, our immediate focus is on our student-athletes and continuing to provide care and support," Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said in his statement. "They have overcome a number of obstacles associated with this virus and handled the uncertainties with undeniable resolve. We will continue to work together and move forward."

The conference announced its football schedule last Wednesday. The schedule included open weeks designed to accommodate the possibility of game postponements because of COVID-19 issues.

Even into Tuesday morning, the possibility of the season being pushed back was reportedly being considered.

That all changed with the vote by Big Ten presidents and chancellors on Tuesday afternoon.

"We just believed, collectively, there is too much uncertainty at this point in time in our country to encourage our student-athletes to participate in fall sports," Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in a BTN interview. "We just believed collectively there's too much uncertainty at this point in time in our country to encourage our student-athletes to participate in fall sports."

Asked what changed in the six days between the release of the football schedule and Tuesday's decision, Warren said the decision was made in consultation with the conference's Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Sports Medicine Committee.

"There is just too much uncertainty now for us to feel comfortable to go forward and have fall sports in the Big Ten," Warren said. "And we just need to constantly do the right thing from a medical standpoint to make sure our student-athletes have an environment that remains both healthy and safe."

Warren would not disclose whether the decision by the presidents and chancellors was unanimous, saying the decision was made on a "collective basis."

"We don't always agree, but I think people understand that we will be together in the Big Ten," Warren said. "I think that's important to make that very clear."

Harreld called it a "collective decision" in his statement.

"It was done as a conference," Ferentz said. "I doubt it was unanimous. I doubt that. But it rarely happens that things are unanimous. I feel confident there was healthy discussion, and hopefully this proves to be the wisest decision."

Warren called the decision a "around-the-clock" endeavor.

On Tuesday, the clock ran out.

"This is a very, very trying time," Warren said. "This is one of those days you really hope in your career you never have to deal with these kinds of issues. But that's not the case in life."

"We’re facing something that’s unprecedented in our history, at least in our lifetimes," Ferentz said. "And we’re trying to deal with it. That probably drove this final decision as much as anything.

"All that being said, today will be a historic day. And it’s a really disappointing day for everyone involved."