Big Ten Cancels Fall Football Season, Will Explore Playing in Spring

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2020

Ohio State coach Ryan Day holds the trophy following the team's 34-21 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game, early Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
AJ Mast/Associated Press

There will be no Big Ten football in the fall.

On Tuesday, the conference announced it will not hold a fall season because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren had this to say:

"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. 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 also announced it "will continue to evaluate a number of options regarding these sports, including the possibility of competition in the spring."

This comes after Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated reported Aug. 9 that "high-level conference meetings are being planned for this week across the college football landscape with the expected resolution of postponing fall sports until 2021."

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Forde and Dellenger noted the Big Ten was moving toward canceling the fall season and in discussions with Power Five conferences about potentially doing the same in a uniform fashion.

"It's gotten to a critical stage," one conference commissioner said. "I think all of us will be meeting with our boards in the coming days. We have work to do that is no fun."

Another industry source said, "In the next 72 hours, college football is going to come to a complete stop."

Heather Dinich, Adam Rittenberg, Mark Schlabach and Chris Low of ESPN echoed similar points in their report the same day, noting Power Five commissioners held an emergency meeting amid "growing concern" there could not be a fall season.

ESPN reported Big Ten presidents were "ready to pull the plug on its fall sports season" and determining if the other Power Five conferences "will fall in line with them."

There was also a feeling that canceling the season seemed "inevitable" among many sources ESPN spoke to, with a number of them saying they were waiting for a Power Five conference to take the lead as the first one to make an official move.

"Nobody wanted to be the first to do it," a Power Five coach told ESPN, "and now nobody will want to be the last."

Despite these developments, there was vocal support for playing a season among many of the sport's notable names and schools. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence took to Twitter to make a plea for holding the season, pointing to the safety college football provides for some of its players:

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields echoed Lawrence's sentiments:

Elsewhere, some parents of Ohio State football players shared a joint letter saying, in part, "We strongly believe our sons want to play the upcoming season and have full trust the university and coaching staff along with medical experts have found a safe way for that to occur."

It seemed as if major college football was headed toward postponement or cancellation even before the reports from Sports Illustrated and ESPN.

After all, the MAC announced it postponed all fall sports until the spring on Aug. 8, while the Big Ten announced on the same day it "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)."

Brett McMurphy of Stadium cited a Power Five source who said: "College football season is done. I don't think everyone immediately follows MAC, but it gives other league presidents one more reason to make an easier decision. Biggest thing is unknown long-term impact of COVID and liability issues involved."

There is still plenty of uncertainty about the next steps to come, but the Big Ten took a major step Tuesday.