Big Ten postpones fall sports, exploring options to play in spring

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FILE – In this Aug. 31, 2019, file photo, the Big Ten logo is displayed on the field before an NCAA college football game between Iowa and Miami of Ohio in Iowa City, Iowa. The Big Ten released its 10-game conference-only football schedule beginning as early as Labor Day weekend but cautioned there is no certainty games will be played. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Big Ten Conference postponed all 2020 fall sports seasons, including football, with plans to explore possibilities of playing those sports in Spring 2021, the conference announced on Tuesday.

Conference commissioner Kevin Warren said the decision to postpone during the COVID-19 pandemic was guided by the conference’s medical experts.

“There are just too many uncertainties to feel comfortable from a medical standpoint to proceed forward,” Warren said in a live interview with the Big Ten Network on Tuesday.

Warren declined to answer whether the vote to postpone was unanimous among all Big Ten presidents.

Football, soccer, cross country, field hockey and volleyball will not play during the Fall 2020 season. The conference is still evaluating options for winter and spring sports.

“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,” said Warren 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 was initially reported by the Detroit Free Press on Monday.

On Monday, football coaches from across the Big Ten began advocating for the fall season, asking decision makers for more time.

Following the Big Ten’s announcement, the University of Nebraska released a joint statement, expressing its disappointment with the decision.

“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. Safety comes first. Based on the conversations with our medical experts, we continue to strongly believe the absolute safest place for our student athletes is within the rigorous safety protocols, testing procedures, and the structure and support provided by Husker Athletics. We will continue to consult with medical experts and evaluate the situation as it emerges. We hope it may be possible for our student athletes to have the opportunity to compete.”

University of Nebraska statement

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh pushed for a fall season, saying that “we respect the challenge the virus has presented however we will not cower from it” in a statement. Harbaugh included testing numbers from the program to support his argument for football in the fall.

The Big Ten’s decision could be the tipping point for decisions by the other “Power Five” conferences. On Sunday, conference leaders met to discuss the fate of the fall season. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told the AP that no decisions on the season have been made, but conceded the outlook has not improved.

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey responded to reports of a potentially dashed fall football season, asking for patience during the decision-making process on Monday.

Sankey’s tweets read: “Best advice I’ve received since COVID-19: ‘Be patient. Take time when making decisions. This is all new & you’ll gain better information each day.’ @SEC has been deliberate at each step since March…slowed return to practice…delayed 1st game to respect start of fall semester.”

In July, the Big Ten was the first major conference to switch to a conference-only schedule. The Pac 12 quickly followed the Big Ten’s decision. The Big 12, SEC and ACC have all opted for some sort of shortened schedule with a focus on conference games.

College football’s shaky current position prompted players from programs across the country to speak out on Sunday in support of a fall season with the hashtag #WeAreUnited. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard and other players joined in on the movement.

The group released a platform calling for universal COVID-19 protocols for college football, opt-outs due to health concerns and guaranteed eligibility whether a player chooses to play or not.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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