Big Ten Postpones 2020 Fall Sports, Teams May Play in Spring

The Big Ten has voted to postpone the 2020 fall sports season. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel journalist Jeff Potrykus reported the news first. 

Big Ten officials confirmed the report through a statement Tuesday afternoon. The conference will continue exploring all options, including the possibility of playing college football this spring. In addition to football, men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball are included in the postponement. 

“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 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.”

University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel and Director of Athletics Mark Coyle also released a joint statement after the conference’s announcement was made. 

“As of today, the medical evidence and expert perspectives presented to us as conference leaders raise serious concerns about the safety of playing fall sports. 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,” Gabel and Coyle said. “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.”

It is unclear what Big Ten and NCAA player contact restrictions will look like during the fall. Coyle and Gabel have offered students an opportunity to stay on the Twin Cities campus.

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

During the past few months, conference officials consulted with The Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee to evaluate public health research and data. After speaking with those individuals, the Big Ten determined postponing the fall season was best for everyone involved. 

“There is just too many uncertainties to feel comfortable from a medical standpoint to proceed forward,” Warren said in an interview with Big Ten Network. 

Moving forward, Big Ten officials will gather information, including new data and public health developments. 

“The Big Ten Conference will continue to work with medical experts and governmental authorities to gather additional information, evaluate emerging data and technologies, and monitor developments regarding the pandemic to make the best decisions possible for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes,” the statement said. 

Recently, medical professionals have mentioned the possible development of myocarditis in athletes who tested positive for COVID-19. These heart issues have been a talking point among Big Ten administrators and school presidents. The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach reported the conference is aware of at least 10 players who have this condition. 

“There has been a lot of discussion about myocarditis,” Warren said on Big Ten Network. “Any time you’re talking about the heart of anyone, but especially a young person, you have to be concerned. We want to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to keep our student-athletes safe.”

Now that a decision has been made, so many questions need to be answered. Coaches and players are wondering what a possible spring season may look like. How will eligibility be impacted by this move? Are seniors going to be granted an additional year? Programs currently have an 85 scholarship limit, but this figure would need to be adjusted. If a spring season is played, how does Minnesota’s incoming 2021 recruiting class fit in? 

Not to mention, the Big Ten needs to develop a safe spring schedule. It would be nearly impossible to play two seasons in a span of eight months.

There are so many questions that must be answered about a possible spring season. In a recent subscriber exclusive story, I shared five factors that need to be considered by Big Ten officials. 

In the coming days, other conferences are going to make similar decisions about a fall season. It is unclear how Power 5 schools, including the SEC and ACC, will approach this situation. Shortly after the Big Ten’s announcement, the Pac-12 said it was postponing all sports through the 2020 calendar year. 

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