ROSEMONT, Ill. (UPI) — The Big Ten Conference on Tuesday postponed fall sports — including football — for the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The conference is the first among the Power Five conferences to announce a postponement of fall sports due to COVID-19. The ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 are expected to announce fall plans later this week.
Men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball are the other fall sports that Big Ten schools will postpone.
Those schools are Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue and Rutgers.
Big Ten officials said they will “evaluate a number of other options” for the sports, which include potential spring seasons. The conference is evaluating a timeline for winter and spring sports seasons.
“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 news release.
“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 announced conference-only fall football schedules Wednesday, but said issuing the schedules did “not guarantee that competition will occur.”
The conference said it engaged in “extensive research” and worked with federal, state and local government agencies, and professional and international sports organizations to better understand the pandemic before it reached the decision to postpone fall spots.
“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,” Warren said. “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.”
Postponed, canceled seasons
NCAA Division II and Division III fall sports were canceled last week due to the pandemic. That move impacted college athletes who participate in football, soccer, women’s volleyball, cross country, field hockey and men’s water polo in those divisions.
The University of Connecticut on Wednesday became the first Football Bowl Subdivision school to cancel its 2020 football season due to the coronavirus. Some conferences have decided to play conference-only football schedules this fall while others have postponed fall sports until the spring.
The Mid-American Conference announced Saturday that it intends play its fall sports schedule in the spring. On Monday, the Mountain West became the second FBS conference to postpone football and other fall sports due to the pandemic.
The Big 12, ACC, SEC and Pac-12 joined the Big Ten in previously announced plans to play mostly in-conference opponents to limit travel due to the pandemic.
The Big 12 plans for its teams to play nine conference games and one non-conference game this fall. The Pac-12 and SEC plan for member schools to play 10 conference games. The ACC plans for its teams to play 10 conference games and one non-conference game in 2020.
Players, Trump want to play
Some of college football’s best players — including Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence — have spoken out on social media about their desire to play football this fall as the outlook continues to crumble.
“People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Lawrence tweeted Sunday. “Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract COVID-19.”
The Clemson quarterback and Heisman Trophy favorite joined Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Alabama running back Najee Harris and other stars with a unified message of “we want to play” Monday morning on social media.
The top players Power Five schools posted the same graphic, which called for “universal mandated health and safety procedures and protocols” to protect college athletes against COVID-19 among all conferences in the NCAA.
The players also requested the opportunity to opt out of the season and for schools to guarantee eligibility regardless of if a player chooses to play or not. Lawrence, Fields and the other star football players also called to establish a college football players association.
President Donald Trump retweeted the graphic and supported the players’ request and desire to play.
“The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be canceled,” Trump said.
Reporting by Alex Butler
United Press International is an international news agency whose newswires, photo, news film, and audio services provided news material to thousands of newspapers, magazines and radio and television stations for most of the 20th century.
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