STATE COLLEGE – The Big Ten football season and fall sports season have been shelved amid growing coronavirus concerns and player safety.
The Big Ten Conference announced the decision Tuesday afternoon after a day of speculation as to whether or not it would postpone or cancel its fall sports season.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
According to multiple reports, the Pac 12 intends to follow the Big Ten’s lead and announce its postponement of fall sports later this afternoon.
The announcement comes one day after numerous reports surfaced that the Big Ten and its leadership was actively exploring postponing or canceling the upcoming season.
Last Wednesday, the Big Ten released 10-game, conference-only schedules for its 14 programs. Ohio State and Illinois were slated to open the conference’s football season on Aug. 3.
Although the conference proceeded with the intention of playing a football season, Warren said those plans were contingent on he and other conference leaders feeling confident that their student-athletes’ health would not be jeopardized by playing this fall.
“One of the things we promised ourselves is this was going to be a fluid situation, this was going to be a day-to-day situation, and we would be on a perpetual state of just observing and gathering information and doing everything we possibly could to have fall sports. That being said, the overarching reason and the overarching theme that we always had to keep at the top of our mind was the fact that I said for the first day that I started at the Big Ten was the health, the safety and the wellness both physical and mental for our student-athletes was going to be at the top of my list. ” Warren said.
College football programs across the country opened fall camp last Thursday and Friday ahead of the 2020 season. Penn State commenced its fall camp last Friday, but Big Ten programs a day later were directed to cease practicing in pads. The Nittany Lions were scheduled to host Northwestern on Sept. 5.
“I would like to begin by saying I know this announcement is one that will hit our student-athletes, coaches and staff very hard,” Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said in a statement. “A piece of our student-athletes' collegiate experience has been taken from them for reasons beyond their control and for that, I am heartbroken. I do know our student-athletes are a resilient bunch and will handle today's news with the same resolve as our winter and spring student-athletes did and be better for it in the end.”
Big Ten athletic directors were scheduled to meet Monday evening, and a president’s vote was expected to determine the fate of the season. In an interview on Tuesday afternoon with Big Ten Network analysts Dave Revsine, Warren didn’t indicate whether or not to vote to postpone the season was unanimous.
“Our schools, we don’t always agree, and I can only talk about since I’ve been here, but I think people understand that I take that from a passionate standpoint that we will be together in the Big Ten,” Warren said. “I just think it’s important to make that rather clear not have a detailed discussion about your question about was the vote unanimous or not.”
Warren was asked specifically about whether reports over the weekend of five Big Ten players contracting myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death if undetected, influenced his decision. There have been links to myocarditis being diagnosed in athletes testing positive for COV]D-19, most notably Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez.
“That’s been a discussion of late,” Warren said. “That’s not the primary reason, all those items from a medical standpoint you have to consider. I know there has been a lot of discussion on that but overall when it comes down to it it’s just the litany of things that created this state of uncertainty that we need more clarity on from a health and wellness standpoint.
In a statement, Indiana athletic director Scott Dolson said he was heartbroken by Tuesday’s news of fall sports being postponed.
“As a lifelong Hoosier and IU sports fan I am disappointed that we won’t be able to enjoy seeing our teams compete, but I am most devastated for our students,” Dolson said. “They invest an enormous amount of time, effort, and energy for the opportunity to represent IU on the field.”
But Dolson said he supports the Big Ten’s decision.
“The Big Ten Conference has made the health and safety of our students, staffs, and communities the No. 1 concern and priority,” Dolson said. “Today, our medical experts believe it is not currently safe to take the next step to participating in intercollegiate competitions. I continue to appreciate Commissioner Kevin Warren for his leadership and guidance through these unprecedented times.”
Tuesday’s decision marks the first time since the Big Ten’s creation in 1895 that its teams have not played a football season.