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Big Ten, Pac-12 postpone 2020 football season

ROSEMONT, Ill. — The Big Ten and Pac-12 called off their fall football seasons on Tuesday because of concerns about COVID-19, taking two of college football’s five power conferences out of a crumbling season.

The Big Ten’s announcement, that it was postponing all fall sports and hoping to make them up in the second semester, came first Tuesday afternoon. An hour later the Pac-12, the Big Ten’s Rose Bowl partner, called a news conference to say that all sports in its conference would be paused until Jan. 1, including basketball.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference are still moving forward with plans to conduct a season as college football’s lack of centralized leadership has left every conference to decide for itself.

“This was an extremely difficult and painful decision that we know will have important impacts on our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and our fans,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. “We know nothing will ease that.”

In a statement, the Big Ten said it relied on advice from several conference committees on the subject. The list of canceled seasons include football, women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball.

The Big Ten’s announcement came six days after the conference that includes historic programs such as Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State had released a revised conference-only football schedule that it hoped would help it navigate a fall season with potential COVID-19 disruptions.

The decision was monumental but not a surprise. Speculation has run rampant for several days that the Big Ten was moving toward this decision. On Monday, coaches throughout the Big Ten tried to push back the tide, publicly pleading for more time and threatening to look elsewhere for games this fall.

“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.”

During an interview on the Big Ten Network, Warren was pressed on whether the decision was unanimous across the conferences and if Big Ten teams could still try to play a fall season, as some coaches suggested Monday. Warren declined to answer.

“We are 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,” University of Nebraska leadership said in a statement.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said the Buckeyes would have preferred to play.

“I wish we would have had a little more time to evaluate,” Smith told the Big Ten Network.

Over the last month, conferences have been reworking schedules in the hopes of being able to buy some time and play a season. The Big Ten was the first to go to conference-only play, doing it in early July.

The Pac-12 followed two days later and eventually all the Power Five conferences switched to either all or mostly conference play.

The first Football Bowl Subdivision conference to pull the plug on a fall season was the Mid-American Conference on Saturday, and then the Mountain West did the same on Monday.

Several other individual schools, including Connecticut, Massachusetts and Conference USA member Old Dominion, have also announced they will not play football this fall.

A total of 53 of the 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams have announced they will not play in 2020. Several Football Championship Subdivision conferences, including the SWAC, have also either canceled the season or announced plans to play in the spring.

On the Dan Patrick radio show Tuesday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was asked if his league would play this fall if all of the others shut down.

“I don’t think that’s the right direction,” Sankey said. “Could we? Certainly. There’s a difference between ‘Can you do something?’ and ‘Should you do something? in life.
“We’re actually set up with our schedule and our own health protocols that we could operate on our own,” Sankey continued. “I’m not sure that’s the wisest direction. But there have been a lot of interesting things happen since March in college sports.”