There will be no Big Ten football this fall. After months of speculation, and even a recent schedule release by the league, it has decided to punt on fall sports, potentially holding them in the spring.
The Big Ten was one of the first conferences to announced that it was moving to a conference-only schedule. Less than a week ago, it rolled out its new schedule for the 2020 college football season, set to start on Sept. 5. After a meeting with league presidents, during which myocarditis—a condition causing inflammation of the heart stemming from COVID-19—was a major topic. At least five Big Ten athletes have been diagnosed with the condition, making the potential repercussions, even for healthy, young athletes, all the more real. This afternoon, the league announced that it will not have the fall season.
“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 the league’s statement, released moments ago. “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.”
Big Ten Statement on 2020-21 Fall Seasonhttps://t.co/BCiRSzeAPL
— Big Ten Conference (@bigten) August 11, 2020
“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,” the statement reads. “Decisions regarding winter and spring sports will also continue to be evaluated.”
Given the lack of a cogent plan for playing Big Ten football this fall, this may very well be the right decision. The quick turnaround that led to it, however, lays bare just how haphazard the sport has been in preparing for the season.
Five months ago today, the NBA shut down its season, leading to similar decisions in college sports hours later. The NCAA Tournament was canceled the next day. Even so, the NCAA and its member conferences have handled the run-up to the fall season like COVID-19 was discovered to be a huge deal about three days ago.