The dominoes began to fall earlier this week, when the Mid-American and Mountain West Conferences announced that they would not play sports in the fall during the pandemic. But Tuesday, the college sports world was rocked by the news that two of the biggest and wealthiest conferences in the country — the Big Ten and Pac-12 — would be doing the same.
First came the news out of the Big Ten, which announced that men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball would be impacted by the decision.
“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,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in a league 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 Pac-12 news came shortly afterward.
“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,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott in his league’s announcement. “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.”
According to Stadium, yesterday’s conference cancellation news means 41 percent (53 programs out of 130) of FBS programs won’t be playing football in the fall. In addition to the four FBS conferences to fully call it off, Old Dominion, UConn and UMass also recently announced their fall seasons would be postponed.
While details about the deliberations to cancel were sparse, Warren conceded to ESPN that the decision was not unanimously applauded. Nebraska, led by coach Scott Frost, has been vocal about its desire to play football this fall — regardless of whether they compete against Big Ten opponents.
Both leagues left the possibility of rescheduling on the table for after the New Year, but the situation remains in a state of flux.
Meanwhile, the remaining three Power 5 conferences — the ACC, SEC and Big 12 — appear to be moving on with the fall season as planned.