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Big Ten announces conference-only schedule for 2020 fall sports

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And so the dominoes begin to fall.

Big Ten athletes and coaches now get free access to the Calm app making good on Commissioner Kevin Warren’s commitment to mental health Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Big Ten announced it will adopt a conference-only schedule for the 2020 fall sports season, according to a press release.

Presidents and athletic directors within the conference spoke Thursday morning to discuss the plan to eliminate all nonconference games this season in hopes of minimizing travel distances and regulating testing protocols for all teams amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

The conference announced that there is still no guarantee a season will be played this fall, but in effort to increase the likelihood of having games, football as well as men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball will all turn to the conference-only model.

Additionally, student-athletes may opt out of the seasons during the 2020-21 academic year but will still have their scholarship honored by their institution.

While some programs were in support of playing at least one additional nonconference game, the overwhelming majority preferred the 10-game conference-only alternative.

As a result of the decision, Northwestern will no longer host Tulane on Sept. 12, Central Michigan on Sept. 19 or Morgan State on Nov. 14. By eliminating those three games, the Wildcats are left with nine total and four home games — Nebraska, Maryland, Wisconsin and Illinois. If the 10-game model is enacted, Northwestern should add an additional home game against a Big Ten opponent this season.

The updated schedule will be released at a later date, but rumors indicate it may be re-formatted for flexibility.

While nothing is certain, the announcement indicates that the Big Ten is moving forward with an anticipated season, and many other conferences will likely follow suit in this decision. The news came just one day after the Ivy League canceled its fall football season with hopes of playing a shortened season in the spring.

As a result, the Big Ten’s decision will affect 36 scheduled opponents — 28 from the FBS and eight from the FCS. Six FBS schools had two Big Ten games on their schedules this season — Ball State, Bowling Green, BYU, Central Michigan, UConn and Northern Illinois.