The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences each voted Tuesday to postpone college football and all other fall sports seasons as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic, a development that may signal the beginning of the end for all sports at the collegiate level in 2020.
Both leagues hope to play football in the spring.
“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 Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said.
“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,” the commissioner said.
University of Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel said the conference “will continue to evaluate a number of options” regarding fall sports, “including the possibility of competition in the spring.”
The postponement of the 14-team conference’s 2020 football season will put a hold on some of college football’s oldest and most heated rivalries, including “The Game,” an annual November showdown between Michigan and Ohio State.
The bitter Big Ten rivals have played 115 times, dating back to the series’ origin in 1897. This fall will mark the first time since 1918 that the Wolverines and Buckeyes won’t battle on the collegiate gridiron.
Big Ten football is rooted in long-standing rivalries, each marked by colorful trophies, including Paul Bunyan’s Axe (Minnesota vs. Wisconsin), the Old Oaken Bucket (Indiana vs. Purdue) and the Land of Lincoln Trophy (Illinois vs. Northwestern).
With the coronavirus-forced postponement of the season, none of these infamous football fixtures will change hands until at least 2021.
The decision to postpone fall sports comes less than a week after the Big Ten announced a restructured 2020 football schedule with a 10th conference game added for all schools amid a season that would extend from as early as Sept. 3 through Nov. 21.
“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,” Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “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 Pac-12 announcement says competition won’t resume until next year, meaning its basketball teams and other winter sports programs won’t play until 2021.
Scott told reporters: “We cannot bubble our student-athletes like pro sports can. We’re part of broader campus communities, student-athletes are living with peer students on campus, interacting.”
Not everyone is happy with decision
Officials at Nebraska, one of the winningest college football programs, were upset by the move.
“We are very disappointed in the decision … as we have been and continue to be ready to play,” the chancellor, university system president, athletic director and football head coach said in a statement.”
“Safety comes first,” they said. “Based on the conversations with our medical experts, we continue to strongly believe the absolute safest place for our student athletes is within the rigorous safety protocols, testing procedures, and the structure and support provided by Husker Athletics.”
Head coach Scott Frost told the media Monday that the Cornhuskers would explore other options to play this fall if the Big Ten moved or called off the season.
“We want to play no matter who it is or where it is. So, we will see how those chips fall,” he said. “We certainly hope it’s in the Big Ten. If it isn’t, I think we are prepared for other options.”
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SOURCE: CNN, Jason Kurtz