Big Ten Conference NCAA

Big Ten announces conference-only football schedules for this fall


Update (4:12 PM): The Big Ten has officially announced that “if the Conference is able to participate in fall sports based on medical advice, it will move to Conference-only schedules in those sports.” The release says that decisions about how this will be done will be made at a later date.

As the world–both within sports and outside–continues to learn how to deal with and adjust to the COVID-19 situation, schools and sports leagues are being forced to make choices to ensure both the safety of students and the viability of sports.

Recently, the Ivy League announced that it had canceled fall sports. Rumors circulated about the potential of moving football to later in the winter or spring, but nothing of the sort has been announced yet.

That, however, is the Ivy League. It is an FCS conference, and football revenues are relatively small there. For a conference like the Big Ten, on the other hand, football revenues make up the backstop of the entire athletic department. Canceling a football season means a loss of tens of millions of dollars per school, which would upend college sports as we know it. On the other hand, playing football in an unsafe environment would be equally devastating for college sports.

The Big Ten, therefore, seems to have decided to try to split the difference. In order to minimize travel and to keep athletes’ contact with other school as limited as possible, the conference has decided on a conference-only schedule this year. Not only does conference-only more or less limit travel, it also allows the conference to set standards and rules for how the conference has to act. Even if some schools (for example, Iowa) play nonconference games within driving distance, but it would be difficult for the Big Ten to impose or enforce safety standards on schools from other conferences, like Iowa State or Northern Iowa.

Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic was the first to break this news.

This is a developing story. The conference has not yet announced what it will do with rescheduling nonconference games, how many games will be played, and how this will work with current television deals. We will update this story as more information becomes available.

And, of course, we are still two over months from the start of football season. Plans definitely can change between now and the start of the season, whenever that may be.

 

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