It’s over: Big Ten cancels football, other fall sports, for 2020

Joey Kaufman
Big Ten athletic directors will vote on whether COVID-related cancellations result in forfeits.

Six days after the Big Ten Conference unveiled a revised football schedule for this fall, it was scrapped.

The conference on Tuesday said that it had canceled the coming season, along with other fall sports, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that for months has raised questions about the health and safety of players.

The decision will send large ripple effects across the Midwest and college football and also impacts Ohio State, a longstanding member of the conference that saw its own players and coaches in recent days lobby conference administrators not to call off this fall’s slate of games.

During an interview with on ESPN on Monday, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day urged the presidents and chancellors from the 14 Big Ten schools to take heed to the voice of players advocating for a season.

“We cannot cancel the season right now,” Day said, asking for “a little bit of time to keep re-evaluating everything that’s going on.”

Other prominent Big Ten coaches, including Jim Harbaugh of Michigan and James Franklin of Penn State, advocated a similar stance this week, hinting at differing opinions within the universities.

Administrators had previously cited the flexibility of a conference-only slate, allowing them to postpone or reschedule games as needed due to the still-raging coronavirus pandemic.

Yet it was reported Monday by the Detroit Free Press that conference presidents and chancellors had voted to outright cancel the fall sports season, reportedly by a 12-2 margin in which Iowa and Nebraska were said to be the lone dissenters.

However, a Big Ten spokesman said Monday that no vote had been conducted among top administrators.

The league’s athletic directors reportedly met on Monday, and presidents were scheduled to meet at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday to discuss the options around the fate of season, including canceling or delaying, according to multiple news reports.

Before the final vote, Kristina Johnson, the incoming president at Ohio State, was said to be in favor of delaying the season’s start rather than canceling, a source told The Dispatch.

The Buckeyes opened preseason training camp last week in preparation for their season, which had been scheduled to begin on Sept. 3 at Illinois, and players had been participating in workouts on campus since early June. While the season was hanging in the air, they continued with practice Tuesday morning.

But at various points this summer, teams were prompted to halt pre-camp workouts due to positive COVID-19 tests. In July, the Buckeyes were also shut down for a week.

The historic step by the Big Ten threatens to leave Ohio State without playing football in the fall for the first time since 1889.

Since their first season, in 1890, the Buckeyes have played through multiple world-shaping events, including the 1918 flu pandemic, two world wars and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Some of the crises forced games to be canceled or postponed, but an entire fall season had never been put off.

On Monday’s ESPN interview, Day expressed a willingness to move toward playing a season even if the Big Ten halted its plans for a conference-only schedule.

“We need to look at every option,” Day said. “If that’s the only option at the time, we need to explore.”

But it’s unclear if Ohio State would be permitted or even if its leadership would be interested in adopting an independent schedule.

Nebraska coach Scott Frost took a similar stance on Monday, telling reporters that the school was “prepared to look for other options” if the Big Ten canceled its football season.



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