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Big Ten, Pac-12 cancel college football seasons


The Big Ten and the Pac-12, two of college football’s “Power Five” conferences, have both postponed their 2020 football seasons, as well as all other Fall sports, due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Big Ten, primarily comprising Midwest teams, did not mention a date of a possible return to action, but the West Coast-based Pac-12 said it “would consider a return to competition for impacted sports after January 1, 2021”.

Both conferences said they made the decision to suspend all fall sports based on the advice of their medical committees.

“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,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said.

“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.”

The Pac-12 said that testing capacity would need to be increased before it could host a season.

“Testing capacity needs to increase to allow for more frequent testing, performed closer to game time, and with more rapid turn-around time to prevent spread of infection and enhance the safety of all student-athletes, coaches, and staff involved, particularly in situations where physical distancing and mask wearing cannot be maintained,” it said. 

The Big Ten did not state its requirements for a season, but said safety would be its priority.

“Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff,” Morton Schapiro, chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Northwestern University president, said.

“This will require access to significant capacity of point-of-care testing and rapid turn-around time, which is currently very limited.”

While the Pac-12 said its vote was unanimous, the Big Ten did not reveal the results of its vote. The University of Nebraska has reportedly voted against the Big Ten’s suspension.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott echoed this sentiment. Scott said he understood that some parties would be disappointed by the suspension but it was necessary for health reasons.

“The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our number one priority since the start of this current crisis,” Scott explained. “Our student-athletes, fans, staff and all those who love college sports would like to have seen the season played this calendar year as originally planned, and we know how disappointing this is.”

Michael H. Schill, president of 2019 Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champion the University of Oregon, echoed this sentiment but said he still had optimism for a spring season.

“All of the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors understand the importance of this decision, and the disappointment it will create for our student-athletes, the coaches, support staff and all of our fans,” Schill said. “Ultimately, our decision was guided by science and a deep commitment to the health and welfare of student-athletes.

“We certainly hope that the Pac-12 will be able to return to competition in the New Year.”

The remaining three “Power Five” conferences – the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and the Big XII – so far still intend to continue the season with shortened schedules. Independent Notre Dame is set to join the ACC for the season. The Big Ten and Pac-12 had previously announced their own truncated schedules.

Following the Big Ten and Pac-12 announcements, the primarily East coast-based ACC said it “will continue to make decisions based on medical advice” and said it is “pleased with the protocols” instituted by its members.

Greg Sankey, commissioner of the SEC said he “remain[s] comfortable with the through and deliberate approach” taken by its members.

Of the “Group of Five” conferences that make up the rest of the Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest level of play, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) has canceled its season while the remaining four are still set to play.