The college sports dominos are starting to tumble, as the Big Ten conference announced today that its fall athletics schedule will be strictly in-conference. The move comes a day after the Ivy League announced that it will not hold any fall sports.
Reports indicate the other Power 5 athletic conferences – the Pac12, Big 12, ACC, and SEC – are either leaning toward similar actions or are at least thinking about schedule adjustments. Billions in television money and other revenue is at stake in the decisions, and networks, fans, and sponsors will have to scramble to adjust.
All of these actions come as a result of concerns over the rising number of coronavirus infections. Many colleges are switching to online classes for the fall, with limited in-person appearances. That makes it problematic for student athletes and athletic departments to maintain the types of preventative measures that professional leagues like the NBA, MLB, MLS, NHL and NFL have implemented
“By limiting competition to other Big Ten institutions,” the Big Ten said in a statement, “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 also noted that the situation is fluid, and not playing at all may be an option at some point.
“As we continue to focus on how to play this season in a safe and responsible way,” the conference said in its statement. “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 Big Ten has made summer workouts voluntary. It also said that any athlete that chooses not to participate in activities for the 2020-2021 academic year will continue to have their scholarships honored and will remain in good standing.