Big 10 Becomes First 'Power Five' Conference To Delay Football Season

Update (1525ET): After flip-flopping in the face of public opposition, the "Big Ten" on Tuesday has officially decided to postpone its football season until at least the spring semester, making the league the first of the NCAA's marquee "Big 5" conferences to implement such a plan.

It follows UConn's decision to scrap its 2020 season entirely due to issues with traveling caused by the tri-state quarantine.

Here's more from the NYT:

The decision, after weeks of announcements from smaller conferences and some individual schools that they would not play this fall, had potentially substantial implications for the rest of college sports.

The move, about five months after the virus’s threat led to the cancellation of the N.C.A.A.’s basketball tournaments, extended the greatest crisis in the history of college athletics, a multibillion-dollar industry with extraordinary cultural clout. But, by stopping short of canceling the season outright and saying that it would evaluate the possibility of playing in the spring, the league offered a lifeline for some of the nation’s most celebrated athletic brands, many of which play in the Power 5 conferences.

The Big Ten’s membership includes Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State,  Wisconsin and Maryland, among other schools.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Big Ten commissioner, Kevin Warren, said it had become “abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall."

Canceling the season entirely would have assuredly starved schools of tens of millions of dollars in football revenues that oftentimes balance budgets and underwrite lower-profile sports. Now some of that money may prove merely delayed, causing new pain on campuses but perhaps arresting a graver economic calamity for college athletics.

So far, the A.C.C. moved to an 11-game schedule, including one out-of-conference game for each team, while the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC prepare for 10-game seasons.

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A headline-grabbing story originating in the Detroit Free Press shocked the college and sports world on Monday by reporting the Big Ten is set on cancelling the fall football season on coronavirus concerns. "It's done," a high-ranking source in the Big Ten was cited in the report.

"Multiple sources said early Monday morning that presidents voted 12-2 to not play this fall, though the Big Ten said Monday afternoon no official vote had taken place," according to the report, which was enough to drive headlines declaring the season was canceled. 

However, an avalanche of pushback and public outry, from some players, coaches, and even the president of the United States, left the decision anything but final. "The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be canceled," Trump tweeted in response alongside the hashtag #WeWantToPlay, with a shared tweet by Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

One college sports commentator noted: "A wild and wacky Monday ended without clarity from the Big Ten about a football season. Instead, the wait continues on a decision to play this fall, while pressure builds from some leagues and coaches."

The immediate public pushback appears to have worked or at least it delayed things, and reports now say the season might not be cancelled after all, with more high level Big Ten meetings set for Tuesday morning.

Thus far the Ivy League, the Pac-12, and the Mid-American Conference, have all canceled their seasons.

While the majority of college presidents appear to stand on the side of cancellation for the sake of safety amid the pandemic, there are said to be other options being considered, like mere postponement of the game schedule. 

Whatever happens, severe controversy is already ensured, given as SI describes:

"All of this was sparked by the Big Ten’s impending move to cancel its season. More than 24 hours after first reports published from ESPN, Yahoo Sports and SI of the Big Ten’s potential plans, the conference still hasn’t made an announcement and is now gripped in an internal strife that poured out into public Monday."

And further: "From high-ranking politicians to the league’s own coaches, a variety of personas strongly voiced their support for a 2020 season, some of them specifically targeting the Big Ten and commissioner Kevin Warren."