The news we’ve all been dreading is finally here.
The Big Ten conference announced Tuesday it will postpone the fall sports to the spring season due to the coronavirus pandemic, less than a week after the conference released its updated league-only schedule for the 2020 football season.
While it is still uncertain whether a college football season will be played at all during the 2020-2021 academic year due to the ongoing effects of the virus, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren reportedly preferred the idea of a spring football season before the conference first met on Saturday.
On Saturday, the Mid-American Conference became the first FBS league to cancel its season, with an eye toward spring ball. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher claimed the decision was not made for financial reasons but for the health and safety of the players and staff, even though the conference was set to lose millions of dollars in game revenue after Power Five schools shifted to a conference-only plan. On Monday, the Mountain West Conference made a similar decision to postpone the season to the spring. Independents Old Dominion, UMass and UConn also determined fall football wasn’t the best idea, with UConn stating they would not play a season at all during the 2020-2021 school year.
The same day as the MAC’s announcement, Big Ten presidents and chancellors met to discuss the state of fall sports. The conference then announced it would not continue the ramp up to normal practices during training camps, which began on Friday, but rather players would still participate in modified practices without pads. However, no decision on the fate of the season was made during that meeting.
According to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, the sentiment from that meeting was a majority of presidents were in favor of postponing the football season. They then met Sunday night after the Power Five commissioners convened earlier in the day. Dan Patrick reported presidents on the call voted 12-2 in favor of canceling the season, with Nebraska and Iowa holding out.
Numerous players (and parents), including Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth and Northwestern-turned Notre Dame receiver Bennett Skowronek, took to social media this weekend saying they wanted to play and arguing they’d be safer in season than if it was canceled.
Lawrence and Michigan’s Hunter Reynolds then spearheaded a group of players across the Power Five and started a #WeWantToPlay movement, pushing for a season with uniform COVID protocols and working toward forming a college football players association.
Several coaches also made it clear they wanted to play the season, notably Jim Harbaugh, who released the below statement, and Scott Frost, who said at a Monday press conference that he feels certain the safest place for his players with regards to the coronavirus is at the facilities.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh released a statement on why he’s advocating they play football this season citing recent numbers and protocols followed pic.twitter.com/8SBHPlSlQv— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) August 10, 2020
Ultimately, though, player and coach sentiment was not enough to talk the Big Ten off of the ledge.
Several Big Ten programs saw outbreaks in recent weeks. Michigan State recorded seven positive cases followed by a team-wide 14-day quarantine. Rutgers recorded 28 cases tied to a party, and Illinois reported 18 positive tests.
Northwestern had one player test positive earlier this week but later announced it was a false positive.
While the Big Ten is the first Power Five domino to fall, the Pac-12 is expected to follow in canceling or postponing its season soon. The ACC and Big 12 are reportedly still on the fence while the SEC plans to hold out for even longer.
After weeks of kicking the can down the road and keeping everyone from players and coaches to media and fans in limbo, the fall 2020 season is over before it began.