The Big Ten will not play football in the fall with “the possibility of competition in the spring” due to health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. the conference said Tuesday.
After a dramatic few days full of meetings among coaches, athletics directors and university presidents, the stunning decision marks a potential tipping point for the Bowl Subdivision to play a season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Hours after the Big Ten’s decision, the league was joined by the Pac-12, which postponed all sports until Jan. 1 at the earliest.
“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.”
The Big Ten’s decision also includes the postponement of all fall sports, including volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer.
“For many months, we had hoped that the return of fall collegiate sports might be an opportunity to restore some sense of normalcy and provide brighter moments for our university, our city and our state,” said Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank and athletics director Barry Alvarez in a co-signed statement. “Even so, today’s decision by the Big Ten to postpone the fall 2020 sports season is the correct one.”
THE LATEST:Updates on where the college football season stands
NOT GOING ALONE:SEC commissioner say league unlikely to play if others cancel
Not every Big Ten school signaled an alignment with the Big Ten’s decision. In a statement attributed to the university, Nebraska said it was “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.”
Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said he was aligned with university president-elect Kristina M. Johnson “in our efforts to delay the start of the season rather than postpone” competition.
“This is an incredibly sad day for our student-athletes, who have worked so hard and been so vigilant fighting against this pandemic to get this close to their season,” Smith said.
Ohio State said that all athletes will remain on scholarship and remain in the same COVID-19 testing, quarantine and isolation protocols. Athletes will still have access to team facilities and nutrition areas.
The Big 12, SEC and ACC have yet to decide on a course of action for the coming season.
“We understand the need to stay flexible and be prepared to adjust as medical information and the landscape evolves,” the ACC said Tuesday.
“I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 leadership to take these actions,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey.
“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.”
Other fall sports included in the Big Ten’s decision are men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball. The conference said it would continue evaluating its options for these sports, as well as sports conducted in the winter and spring.
One significant concern for the Big Ten and other conferences was the potential long-term health issues that could arise among student-athletes who may otherwise dodge the primary symptoms of the coronavirus — including myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that can impact the heart’s ability to pump blood normally.
During an appearance on the Big Ten Network, Warren said that myocarditis was “not the primary reason” behind the league’s decision but one of a “litany of reasons.”
As the season seemed on the brink of cancellation for much of Monday, several Big Ten coaches shared statements or made public comments arguing to proceed as originally planned or delay the league’s decision.
At least two Big Ten teams, Ohio State and Penn State, were considered to be among the nation’s best, with several others ranked in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll. The Buckeyes were ranked second behind Clemson. Penn State came in at No. 7, Wisconsin at No. 11, Michigan at No. 15, Minnesota at No. 18 and Iowa at No. 23.
Removing the Pac-12 and Big Ten from the season does raise questions about the ability to conduct a hypothetical postseason and College Football Playoff without a complete roster of conferences.
“It’s too soon to say what the implications will be,” playoff executive director Bill Hancock told USA TODAY Sports. “We will wait for guidance from the (playoff) board and management committee.”
In all, four FBS conferences have decided against playing in the fall, with the Big Ten and Pac-12 joined by two Group of Five leagues, the MAC and Mountain West. Two independent programs, Connecticut and Massachusetts, have also decided to shift toward the potential for a spring season.