Big Ten Won't Progress to Padded Football Practices, Fall Season Now in Question

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2020

FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2019, file photo, the Big Ten logo is displayed on the field before an NCAA college football game between Iowa and Miami of Ohio in Iowa City, Iowa. The Big Ten released its 10-game conference-only football schedule beginning as early as Labor Day weekend but cautioned there is no certainty games will be played. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

The Big Ten announced Saturday that all of its football programs "will remain in the first two days of the acclimatization period in football (i.e., helmets shall be the only piece of protective equipment student-athletes may wear)." 

According to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports and Pat Forde of SI.com, that could be the first step in the conference—and potentially other conferences around college football—canceling the 2020 season or pushing it back to the spring amid the COVID-19 pandemic:

Pete Thamel @PeteThamel

Source: Big Ten presidents are meeting today. All options are on the table. There's some presidential momentum for canceling the fall football season. It's unknown if there's enough support to make that decision today.

Pat Forde @ByPatForde

Prominent industry source: "I think by the end of the week the fall sports will be postponed in all conferences."

Another source told Brett McMurphy of Stadium that the college football season was "done":

Brett McMurphy @Brett_McMurphy

Power 5 source to @Stadium: “College football season is done. I don’t think everyone immediately follows MAC, but it gives other league presidents 1 more reason to make an easier decision. Biggest thing is unknown long-term impact of COVID & liability issues involved"

That comes after the MAC formally postponed all fall sports until the spring on Saturday:

#MACtion @MACSports


#MACtion @MACSports

MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher delivers his statement at today's press conference announcing the postponement of fall sports. https://t.co/M92cP4KiWD

It isn't hard to envision a scenario where other major conferences follow suit. A growing list of prominent players have already opted out for the season. And if the conferences try to hold the season in the spring, even more potential draft picks may drop out, instead beginning preparations for the 2021 NFL draft, currently set for April. 

Scheduling remains a major question mark, especially for the Big Ten after it announced it wouldn't be allowing teams to move into fully padded practices. The conference noted in its statement:

"We understand there are many questions regarding how this impacts schedules, as well as the feasibility of proceeding forward with the season at all. As we have consistently stated, we will continue to evaluate daily, while relying on our medical experts, to make the best decisions possible for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes."

David Jesse of the Detroit Free Press additionally reported that two sources told him that "Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren preferred a spring football season, although no decision has been made."

Even if the Big Ten doesn't fully follow the MAC's lead, it's already clear that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be a major storyline in the college football season.