Big Ten postpones fall sports season due to COVID-19

hopes football can play in spring of 2021

There won’t be any college football, or several fall sports for that matter, in the Big Ten Conference this year.

League officials announced Tuesday the school’s presidents have voted to postpone the fall sports season due to COVID-19 concerns. In addition to football, the decision affects men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.

“It became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall. We know how significant the student-athlete experience can be in shaping the future of the talented young women and men who compete in the Big Ten Conference. Although that knowledge made this a painstaking decision, it did not make it difficult. While I know our decision today will be disappointing in many ways for our thousands of student-athletes and their families, I am heartened and inspired by their resilience, their insightful and discerning thoughts, and their participation through our conversations to this point. Everyone associated with the Big Ten Conference and its member institutions is committed to getting everyone back to competition as soon as it is safe to do so,” Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement.

The move comes days after the Mid-American Conference announced it was postponing its football season. The MAC was the first FBS conference to do so. It also comes days after the Big Ten released a preliminary 10-game regular season starting Sept. 5 that had the Gophers opening the football season at Michigan State.

The Big Ten became the first Power 5 conference to postpone its football season, and other conferences are expected to follow. The Pac-12 also announed Tuesday it’s postponing fall sports. There are now 53 FBS college programs that won’t be playing football this fall.

“There is too much uncertainty now for us to go forward. This is a novel virus. It is spreading at an alarming rate… There are just too many uncertainties from a medical standpoint for us to go forward,” Warren told Big Ten Network.

Warren did not say if the vote among the 14 Big Ten presidents to postpone the fall sports season was unanimous.

University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel and Athletic Director Mark Coyle released a joint statement on Tuesday.

“We know our student-athletes want to compete and that our coaches want to coach. We share their extreme disappointment about not being able to do so this fall. We have a responsibility to our student-athletes, and everyone involved with our athletics programs, to put their health and safety above all else. That responsibility remained our top priority throughout these discussions and it’s why this decision was made.

“We welcome our student-athletes to remain on campus to study, to train and to practice within Big Ten Conference and NCAA established limits. We are committed to the safest environment for all of our students, including our student-athletes,” the statement reads.

Just last week, Gophers star wide receiver Rashod Bateman announced he would opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic. Bateman, the reigning Big Ten Receiver of the Year and First Team All-Big Ten pick, has asthma and will begin training for the 2021 NFL Draft, where he’s expected to be a first round pick.

The decision is a crushing blow to the athletic department budgets for Big Ten schools. Earlier this year, Coyle told the U of M’s Board of Regents the department would face up to a $75 million loss in revenue without football in the fall. The news is especially tough for the Gophers, with interest in the program at an all-time high after an 11-2 season, its best in 115 years, capped by a win over Auburn in the Outback Bowl.

The NCAA has also canceled fall championships in Division II and Division III due to COVID-19, and the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference recently canceled its fall sports season.

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