The Big Ten Conference announced Thursday afternoon that it would be switching to a conference-only schedule for all fall sports this year, “if the Conference is able to participate in fall sports,” to limit health risks for students, staff, and officials amid the coronavirus pandemic. The move, officials say, will allow it have flexibility in order to make decisions on contests and participation “in real-time based on the most current evolving medical advice and the fluid nature of the pandemic.”
“This decision was made following many thoughtful conversations over several months between the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, Directors of Athletics, Conference Office staff, and medical experts including the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.”
Football, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, and women’s volleyball are the sports directly impacted by this decision, which follows Wednesday’s announcement by the Ivy League of its decision not to play fall sports at all in 2020. This means that five of the Top 25 teams (per NCAA.com’s Wayne Staats in March – official preseason rankings aren’t out until August) – including No. 2 Ohio State – will not play any games outside of their conference slate.
Per ESPN reporting, the move will affect the schedules of 36 non-league programs scheduled to play games against conference teams this fall, including six – Ball State, Bowling Green, BYU, Central Michigan, UConn and Northern Illinois – with two Big Ten foes on their calendar. Several marquee non-conference football contests will also be lost to the decision, beginning with Michigan’s road trip to Washington on September 5.
Rumors abound that similar decisions are expected from other conferences in the near-future, and that a radically altered fall season will take place amid the coronavirus, if one takes place at all.