After announcing plans to shift to a conference-only football slate in early July and releasing a full football schedule last Wednesday, the Big Ten has now postponed their fall season sports and championships, including football. Yahoo’s Pete Thamel broke the news Tuesday, with the conference putting out an official statement shortly thereafter.
This comes after plenty of discussions about the conference being set to cancel or postpone fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a report from Dan Patrick Monday that the Big Ten and the Pac-12 would cancel their football seasons Tuesday. But it also comes after plenty of pushback from specific schools and specific football coaches, including Nebraska and Ohio State. And it comes after pushback from players, especially with the #WeWantToPlay movement. (It’s notable that there are a lot of Big Ten players with heart condition myocarditis, though, which maybe factored into conference concerns here.) And it comes after U.S. president Donald Trump called for college football to continue with a fall season on Twitter Monday night and on Outkick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio Tuesday morning. So it’s definitely notable to see this made official.
While other conferences and schools (including the Group of Five’s Mid-American Conference and Mountain West, eight FCS-level conferences (including the Ivy League, the CAA, and the Big Sky), and independent FBS level team UConn) had already canceled or postponed their fall sports, the Big Ten is the first Power Five conference to postpone their football season. But they may not be the last; Patrick’s report said the Pac-12 would also cancel Tuesday, and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has a news conference slated for 4:30 p.m. Eastern. And while the SEC, ACC and Big 12 have looked more committed to playing to this point, we’ll see if they keep that up.
There are lots of questions left about what’s ahead. For starters, schools like Nebraska have indicated they might try to play football outside of the Big Ten this year after a cancellation, with head coach Scott Frost saying Monday they’re “committed to playing football” even without the conference. But that poses plenty of potential problems, including with media rights (which are sold through the conferences). And with so many of the remaining conferences announcing conference-only or conference-plus-one scheduling plans, Nebraska might have to do something like “ACC member in football for this year Notre Dame.” But that could carry plenty of other challenges.
Beyond that, there are questions about what will happen with this plan to explore playing football in the spring. At the moment, that’s a very vague exploration, as the Big Ten statement indicates:
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. Decisions regarding winter and spring sports will also continue to be evaluated.
And there are plenty of possible concerns about playing in the spring, from what the COVID-19 situation will look like by then to what that means for eligibility and what that means for the 2021 fall season. But we’ve already seen that media networks would be open to spring college football, and that could be a big piece of the puzzle. At the moment, though, the spring discussion is all a hypothetical exploration. We’ll see what happens next, but what we know for now is that there won’t be Big Ten football this fall.