There will be no college football this fall for the Big Ten or the Pac-12. Both conferences announced Tuesday they have decided to kick fall sports until 2021 amid the still-spreading coronavirus pandemic.
“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 Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. “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 health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our number one priority since the start of this current crisis,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, who made its announcement roughly an hour after the Big Ten’s. “Our student-athletes, fans, staff and all those who love college sports would like to have seen the season played this calendar year as originally planned, and we know how disappointing this is.”
The Big Ten and the Pac-12 became the first of the “Power 5” conferences — the other three being ACC, SEC and Big 12 — to cancel its fall sports. The Big Ten said it would hope to hold its fall sports in the spring, the Pac-12 was more vague, only saying that the conference would re-evaluate conditions in January. The Pac-12 actually postponed all sports through the end of 2020, which affects winter sports like basketball as well.
The stunning about-face comes just weeks after most conferences were finalizing slimmed-down schedules that featured only intra-conference games, signaling optimism that college’s biggest sport would be able to go on. But over the weekend, the Mid-American Conference and Mountain West postponed its fall sports, along with schools like UMass and Connecticut. On Monday, an ESPN story explored the link between COVID-19 and a heart condition known as Myocarditis, which was found in at least five Big Ten football players.
The news means that, if college football is still able to hold some semblance of a season this fall, it will be without schools including Stanford, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Arizona, Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Maryland and Illinois. The postponement came as some top players and coaches, including Clemson’s star quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, pleaded for the season to be held as scheduled. Michigan is a Big Ten school.
Meanwhile, both the SEC and ACC are, for now, keeping fall sports on the schedule.
“We are pleased with the protocols being administrated on our 15 campuses,” the ACC said in a statement. “We will continue to follow our process that has been in place for months and has served us well. We understand the need to stay flexible and be prepared to adjust as medical information and the landscape evolves.”
For its part, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said, “I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 leadership to take these actions today. I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 member are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes. We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day.”
From a television perspective, the Big Ten is primarily carried on Fox networks as well as its own Big Ten Network. The Pac-12 has its own network as well. ESPN and ABC also combine to air many games from both conferences.