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Big Ten will limit football and other fall sports to conference games

Nebraska fans fill General Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.
Nebraska fans fill General Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., during an NCAA college football game between Nebraska and South Alabama.
(Nati Harnik / Associated Press)

The Big Ten Conference announced Thursday it will not play nonconference games in football and several other sports this fall, the most dramatic move yet by a power conference because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league cited medical advice in making its decision and added ominously that the plan would be applied only “if the conference is able to participate in fall sports.”

“As we continue to focus on how to play this season in a safe and responsible way, based on the best advice of medical experts, we are also prepared not to play in order to ensure the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes should the circumstances so dictate,” the league said.

Besides football, the sports affected include men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball.

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“By limiting competition to other Big Ten institutions, the conference will have the greatest flexibility to adjust its own operations throughout the season and make quick decisions in real-time based on the most current evolving medical advice and the fluid nature of the pandemic,” the Big Ten said.

Here’s a list of some notable athletes who have decided not to take part in the sports’ restart amid the coronavirus crisis.

The announcement came a day after the Ivy League called off fall sports and Stanford announced it was cutting 11 varsity sports as it struggles with the financial impact the virus outbreak is having on its budget.

There was no immediate reaction from the other big conferences, though the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 have all indicated they intend to play fall sports, anchored by football, by far the biggest moneymaker.

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Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk was asked about the possible rationale for a conference-only schedule.

“Probably, it’s a comfort level of how protocols are being enacted, how testing is done and then keeping it within that family, if you will — your expanded social circle or social pod,” said Sterk, whose Tigers play in the SEC. “You might be able to control things more that way, or feel like you can, anyway versus the unknown of people coming from outside our 11 states.”

The marquee nonconference matchups in the Big Ten this season included Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin on Oct. 3 at Lambeau Field, home of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. A handful of teams were scheduled to play two Big Ten opponents, including Bowling Green, Central Michigan and Northern Illinois.

Chris Hinton and his wife started College Football Parents 247 that aims to bring parents to the table, so to speak, to be able to advocate for their sons with the NCAA.

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