Another domino has fallen in the world of college football, and it is a big one. Thethat it will cancel its fall football season with the hope of playing next spring. The decision was made in conjunction with the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.
"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," said Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren. "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."
This comes just one day after coaches, administrators and players took to social media to fight for the survival of the conference. Those coaches and administrators spoke out on the decision on Tuesday afternoon, including Nebraska head coach Scott Frost. The third-year coach of the Cornhuskers suggested on Monday that the program could look elsewhere to play this fall in the case of a postponement. That possibility was referenced in the joint statement released by Frost, chancellor Ronnie Green, University system president Ted Carter and athletic director Bill Moos on the heels of Tuesday's cancellation news.
"We are very disappointed in the decision by the Big Ten Conference to postpone the fall football season, as we have been and continue to be ready to play. Safety comes first. Based on the conversations with our medical experts, we continue to strongly believe 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. We will continue to consult with medical experts and evaluate the situation as it emerges. We hope it may be possible for our student athletes to have the opportunity to compete."
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith announced that scholarship players will remain on scholarship. He then commented on the feeling around the program.
"This is an incredibly sad day for our student-athletes, who have worked so hard and been so vigilant fighting against this pandemic to get this close to their season," Smith said. "My heart aches for them and their families. President-elect [Kristina] Johnson and I were totally aligned in our efforts to delay the start of the season rather than postpone. I am so grateful to her for all her efforts in support of our student-athletes and a traditional fall season."
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh released his statement on Twitter, which included a point that he referenced on Monday about his program's success following COVID-19 testing protocols.
"Our student-athletes and coaches want to compete. They have committed, trained and prepared their entire lives for this opportunity, and I know how much they're disappointed at this time. I share in their disappointment today," Harbaugh said.
"We have shown over the weeks since returning to campus that we could meet the challenge and provide our student-athletes the opportunity of a fall football season.
"Our football team, our coaching staff, our support staff in Schembechler Hall have all stepped up, followed every rule, and done everything in their power magnificently to give all the opportunity to compete. I am extremely proud, thankful and appreciative of our team and how they have conducted and represented our program and university."
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez and president Rebecca Blank issued a joint statement addressing the health concerns that the conference faced prior to postponing the season.
"There is no way to preserve physical distancing during competition, and masking can make competition very difficult," the statement read. "There are also a variety of unknowns about the interaction of COVID-19 with extreme physical exertion. As a result, playing the fall season would pose risks that we think are not acceptable for our student-athletes and our athletic staff. This is a difficult moment for all of us -- student-athletes, coaches, staff, students, fans and local communities -- whose lives are intertwined with Badger Athletics in a variety of ways."
There won't be Big Ten football this fall, but there will still be plenty of intrigue. Will Frost's idea of playing in another conference happen? Will other programs follow suit? Is a spring season even feasible? Will players transfer and opt out to prepare for the NFL en masse? There won't be football ... but it'll still be a wild fall in Big Ten country.