On Aug. 11, the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences postponed their fall sports seasons. The decisions come after smaller conferences, like the MAC and Ivy League, also shut down for the upcoming season. The Big Ten and Pac-12 hope they can play college football in the spring.
Rumors began drifting around Aug. 9 that the Big Ten could postpone college football until the start of the 2021 calendar year. The sudden change in tone after sports teams began ramping up for the fall season prompted plenty of speculation. An industry source even told Sports Illustrated, “In the next 72 hours college football is going to come to a complete stop.”
The Big Ten made the postponement official on Tuesday, releasing a lengthy statement on the conference’s website. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren explained the decision,
“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. 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 Big Ten features several perennial powerhouses. Six of the conference’s football programs finished in the Associated Press’ top 25 at the end of the 2019 season. Four of those programs ranked in the top 11, and Ohio State made the College Football Playoffs.
Following the Big Ten’s decision, the Pac-12 also postponed the upcoming season. In an official statement, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott described the dilemma,
“Unlike professional sports, college sports cannot operate in a bubble,” he said. “Our athletic programs are a part of broader campuses in communities where in many cases the prevalence of COVID-19 is significant. We will continue to monitor the situation and when conditions change we will be ready to explore all options to play the impacted sports in the new calendar year.”
The Pac-12, another member of the Power 5, prominently features Oregon and Utah. Oregon finished fifth in the final AP poll last season while Utah ranked 16th. The Pac-12 also sent Washington to the College Football Playoffs during the 2016 season while Oregon made the championship game two years prior.
While the Big Ten and Pac-12 already made their decisions, the ACC, Big 12, and SEC haven’t released official statements determining their plans heading into the fall. The Big Ten and Pac-12 favor a united decision by the Power 5 conferences, but they won’t get it without a fight.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Hayes received a text from a Power 5 athletic director yesterday detailing the lack of unity between the conferences, “It’s looking more and more like it’s Big Ten and Pac-12 vs. SEC, ACC and Big 12.”
Both the ACC and SEC point toward the medical advice they’ve received as a reason for playing the upcoming season. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey even told the Dan Patrick Show, “Our medical advisory group has said, ‘Yes, we can continue to go forward.’ Should that advice change, that would certainly be a stopping point.”
College athletes aren’t entirely on board with college football’s current mayhem either. Several prominent prospects in the Big Ten already opted out of the 2020 season, including Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, Penn State’s Micah Parsons, and Purdue’s Rondale Moore.
However, Ohio State’s Justin Fields tweeted his support for playing the upcoming season using #WeWantToPlay. Pro scouts view Fields as a future top-ten selection in the NFL Draft and a Heisman Trophy candidate.
— Justin Fields (@justnfields) August 10, 2020
Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence joined the movement of disgruntled college athletes, tweeting the same united message. Lawrence is the favorite to get selected with the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft if he leaves college.
Several teams could even play outside their conferences if it means salvaging the 2020 season. Nebraska Head Coach Scott Frost went as far as telling ESPN on Monday, “We want to play a Big Ten schedule. I think the only reason we would look at any other options is if for some reason the Big Ten wasn’t playing and only a handful of teams from the Big Ten wanted to continue playing. I think if that’s the case, I think we’re prepared to look at any and all options.”
Ohio State Head Coach Ryan Day also left the door open to playing outside the Big Ten this fall, telling the media, “We need to look at every option, and if that’s the only option at the time, we will explore it.”
Surprisingly, the Big 12 seems to be openly moving forward as planned. According to ESPN’s Heather Dinich, the Big 12 is planning on having a fall season, although no official statement has been made. Initially, the conference didn’t take a strong stand against not playing in the fall.
Multiple sources have confirmed the Big 12 is moving forward with the season.
— Heather Dinich (@CFBHeather) August 12, 2020
Per ESPN’s Andrea Adelson, the ACC and SEC also plan on moving forward with their current schedules. Five of the six national champions crowed under the College Football Playoff format are from the ACC or SEC.
The future of the 2020 season remains up in the air as several Power 5 conferences mull over their options. In the coming days, each must make some of the most scrutinized decisions in recent college football history.