Big Ten, Pac-12 cancels fall football season, other conferences could follow

College Sports

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – DECEMBER 07: Nicholas Petit-Frere #78 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after winning the Big Ten Championship game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 07, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

DALLAS (NEXSTAR/WJHL) — The Big Ten is the first Power Five conference to announce it will cancel fall football and eye a potential spring season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Pac-12 did the same, shortly afterward.

This follows a weekend meeting of conference commissioners. It’s expected that others may follow the Big Ten’s lead.

“Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff,” said Morton Schapiro, Chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University President 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,” added Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren.

On Sunday, Big 12 commissioners cited “growing evidence and the growing pool of data around myocarditis” as a reason for a potential cancellation.

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart, and it has been found in some COVID-19 patients. There is concern it could be a long-term complication of contracting the virus even in young, healthy people, a group that has usually avoided severe cardiovascular symptoms.

The final call on whether major college football will be played this season rests in the hands of the university presidents who oversee the other largest conferences.

All this activity comes days after the Mid-American Conference became the first among 10 leagues that play at the highest tier of Division I college football to cancel fall sports because of concerns about keeping athletes from contracting and spreading COVID-19.

The MAC’s decision came less than a month before the first games are scheduled to be played and raised questions about whether other conferences might follow.

Meanwhile, college football players took to social media to push for a season, led by Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with a series of tweets.

“People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Lawrence tweeted. “Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid19.”

Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth had a similar message.

“Since day one coming back to campus the Penn State Football staff and medical experts have put our health and safety first, above anything else,” he tweeted. “The guidelines put into place keep us safe while playing the game we love. We are ready to play and we want to play.”

Other players tweeted with the hashtag #WeWantToPlay, and within a few hours that movement merged with another.

President Trump weighed in on Monday encouraging universities to go ahead with the football season.

Pac-12 Conference postpones fall sports through end of 2020

The Pac-12 announcement stated that the decision was made after consultation with athletics directors and with the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee who reportedly expressed concern with moving forward with contact practice.  

The Conference also announced that when conditions improve, it would consider a return to competition for impacted sports after January 1, 2021.

Student-athletes impacted by the postponement will continue to have their scholarships guaranteed, the statement read.  Additionally, the Pac-12 Conference strongly encourages that the NCAA grant students who opt out of competition this academic year, gain an additional year of eligibility. 

As part of their guaranteed scholarships, they will continue to have university support, including academic advising and tutoring, among other support services, the report continued.

“All of the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors understand the importance of this decision, and the disappointment it will create for our student-athletes, the coaches, support staff and all of our fans,” said Michael H. Schill, president of the University of Oregon. “Ultimately, our decision was guided by science and a deep commitment to the health and welfare of student-athletes. We certainly hope that the Pac-12 will be able to return to competition in the New Year.”

“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,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.  “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.”

Scott added in the release that while the Conference’s detailed plan to keep student-athletes safe was working in accordance with the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee guidelines and state and local government orders, the situation was becoming more challenging.

“Unlike professional sports, college sports cannot operate in a bubble,” he said. “Our athletic programs are a part of broader campuses in communities where in many cases the prevalence of COVID-19 is significant.  We will continue to monitor the situation and when conditions change we will be ready to explore all options to play the impacted sports in the new calendar year.”

“We know that this is a difficult day for our student-athletes, and our hearts go out to them and their families,” added Scott.  “We have made clear that all of their scholarships will be guaranteed, and that as a Conference we are strongly encouraging the NCAA to grant them an additional year of eligibility.”

Updated guidelines of the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee can be found here, and a full list of Committee members can be found here.

You can read the full statement here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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