The 14-team league said it hopes to play these postponed fall sports in the spring, if the nation’s struggle against the coronavirus is in a better place.
“I’ve said it from the first day that I started at the Big Ten, that the health, the safety, the wellness — both physical and mental — for our student-athletes was going to be at the top of my list,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren told the Big Ten Network minutes after the announcement.
“The Big Ten will always put the the mental and physical health and safety and wellness of our student-athletes at the center.”
Just last week, the Big Ten had announced a slimmed down, conference-only football schedule. But in just the past few days, Warren said league officials had too many questions about long-term health impacts of COVID-19.
“There are just too many uncertainties to feel comfortable, from a medical standpoint, to proceed forward,” Warren said. “Just having our student-athletes compete in fall sports, we just didn’t believe it was prudent at this time.”
By calling off all fall sports, it means prominent football teams like Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin will be sidelined from their traditional seasons.
And more significantly, the Big Ten’s action pushed college football closer to a total fall shutdown.
Within college’s football top tier, the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the Big Ten is among the Power 5 leagues which dominate the sport.
The Pacific-12 and Southeastern Conferences had already cancelled all non-league games while the Atlantic Coast and Big 12 conferences have pared back their schedules to a more regional slates of contests.
Before the Big Ten action, President Donald Trump decried the possible cancellation of college football this fall.
“I think (college) football’s making a tragic mistake,” Trump told Fox Sports Radio’s “Outkick the Coverage with Clay Travis” on Tuesday.
“It’s brilliant, football. It’s great football. It’s the atmosphere, there’s nothing like it. And you can’t have empty seats.”
He argued — without providing evidence — that college football players, elite athletes in their late teens and early 20s, are at virtually no risk of being infected or seriously hurt by coronavirus.
“These people are so powerful and so strong and not lots of body fat … and they’re very healthy people,” Trump said.
“People don’t realize, it’s a tiny percentage of people that get sick and they’re old. It just attacks old people, especially old people with (a) bad heart, diabetes, some kind of physical problem.”
Nebraska football coach Scott Frost, whose Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011, on Monday floated the possibility of his team’s joining another conference to play just for this fall season.
“We are very disappointed by the decision by the Big Ten Conference to postpone the fall football season, as we have been and continue to be ready to play,” Frost and Nebraska Athletic Director bill Moos said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
“Safety comes first. Based on the conversations with our medical experts, we continue to strongly believe that the absolute safest place for our student-athletes is within the rigorous safety protocols, testing procedures, and the structure and support provided by Husker Athletics.”
When asked if the decision to pull the plug on fall sports had unanimous support from all 14 schools, Warren declined to answer.
The commissioner also refused to discuss if an individual school, like Nebraska, could join another league on a temporary basis under Big Ten bylaws.
“Today is very, very emotional,” Warren said when asked about Frost. “The reason why they’re great coaches is because they have great passion and they work hard and they’re intelligent.”
“If you are transparent and follow the rules, this is how it can be done,” according to Harbaugh.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, an alumnus of both Wisconsin and Ohio State, bristled Monday at the notion college football might be over for 2020.
“America needs college football,” tweeted Jordan, a standout Badgers grappler and former assistant wrestling coach at OSU.
As the coronavirus continues to plague America, 2020 college football has been winding down.
The Mid-American Conference (MAC) on Saturday became the first FBS league to cancel the upcoming season. Days earlier, the independent University of Connecticut announced it won’t play football this fall.
Playoffs for the NCAA’s three lower levels of football — the Football Championship Subdivision, Division II and Division III — were cancelled last week, raising further doubts there will be fall gridiron play.