The Big Ten Conference announced on Thursday that it would be moving to a conference-only schedule for fall sports. The biggest sport that this new rule change will affect is football, but other sports will have their seasons changed as well.
Officials from the Big Ten issued a statement on Thursday and noted that the safety of their players, coaches, and officials were the biggest reason for this change. The conference will now have the flexibility to change their football schedule this fall in an effort to keep everyone safe.
There is still a question of whether football will be played at all this fall, but coaches and administrators felt that the conference only model was the way to go. This will also cut down on some of the travel that is required for teams in non-conference games, which should help to limit the spread of the virus.
Presidents and athletic directors of each Big Ten school have been meeting throughout the week, and head coaches were able to voice their concerns as well. Besides football, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, and field hockey will also be affected by this change.
The league also spoke with state and local health experts to come up with this plan, and it was agreed that this was the best way to have a season. Most campuses have been open for the past few weeks, and some teams have been hosting workouts in small-groups.
The conference is also putting together a Big Ten Task Force that will create health and safety protocols for each sport. Each sport will likely have different rules, but there will be some similarities as well.
Any student-athlete that chooses not to participate in 2020 due to concerns over COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarship honored by their university. Athletes that choose to sit out during the season will also be given another year of eligibility by the NCAA, assuming that they have options left.
This decision will affect 36 other schools as there will be 36 non-conference games that are now scheduled. The league could look to add some additional conference games, but the conference has not yet made a decision.
There are some notable games that will be canceled due to this decision, and several other power-five schools will be looking for new opponents. Wisconsin was set to take on Notre Dame at Lambeau Field on Oct. 3, but that game has now been canceled.
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Will Other Conferences Follow Suit?
The Big Ten Conference became the first power-five conference to make a decision on fall sports, but they likely won’t be the last. Several other conferences have already started to discuss this exact scenario, and other announcements are expected over the next few weeks.
The Big 12 Conference has remained consistent in their desire to play college football this fall, but that could change in a hurry. The state of Texas has seen a large number of COVID-19 cases of late, and that will likely play into the decision.
The Ivy League has already announced the cancellation of all fall sports, and they are also moving all classes to an online format. Other small conferences have made similar announcements, especially at the division three level.
It’s unclear how the NCAA will handle the cancellation of seasons, or the shortening of schedules. The NCAA requires teams to win at least six games to become bowl eligible, but that number will be hard to achieve for many schools.
The Big Ten Conference was the first to make an announcement, but they likely started a trend.