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Big Ten cancels fall football season over coronavirus concerns, hopes to play in spring

The Big Ten logo is displayed on a field.
The Big Ten became the first Power Five conference to postpone its fall football season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

The Big Ten pushed over the first domino toward a fall without college football, deciding Tuesday to cancel the Midwest’s autumn ritual while maintaining hope the sport can be played in the spring.

Big Ten coaches and players made their voices heard Monday, expressing their desire to play a fall season in the midst of a pandemic that rages on with no end in sight. But university presidents voted to follow through on their plan from last weekend, when the Big Ten approached the other Power Five conferences to gauge them on canceling the fall slate.

The Pac-12 Conference presidents are meeting Tuesday to decide the fall fate of their schools.

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“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,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said. “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.

“We know how significant the student-athlete experience can be in shaping the future of the talented young women and men who compete in the Big Ten Conference. Although that knowledge made this a painstaking decision, it did not make it difficult. While I know our decision today will be disappointing in many ways for our thousands of student-athletes and their families, I am heartened and inspired by their resilience, their insightful and discerning thoughts, and their participation through our conversations to this point.”

Last Wednesday, the Big Ten announced a revised conference-only schedule with the first game Sept. 3. That was the earliest start date among the Power Five.

After that announcement, Big Ten players united under the umbrella of the “College Athlete Unity” group, which purported to represent more than 1,000 players across the league. The group asked for uniform mandated health and safety policies in order to play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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On Saturday, the Mid-American Conference, which shares a regional footprint with the Big Ten, announced it was canceling fall sports due to concerns for players’ safety.


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