The Big Ten moved to postpone the 2020-21 fall sports season due to ongoing health and safety concerns related to the coronavirus, per a release on Tuesday afternoon.
The conference’s official statement comes after a Monday morning report from the Detroit Free Press said that high-ranking sources within the Big Ten expect the conference to cancel the football and other fall sports in an official announcement. The report cited a 12-2 vote in favor of postponing the season by university presidents, with Nebraska and Iowa being the only two institutions voting in favor of a fall sports season.
“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 in the release. “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.”
Fall sports offered by the Big Ten include men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. Nebraska will lose out on men’s and women’s cross country, football, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball in 2020.
According to the release, the conference will continue to evaluate “a number of options” regarding these sports, including the possibility of competing in the spring.
This ruling comes one day after Nebraska football head coach Scott Frost stated multiple times in a press conference that Nebraska wants to play football in the fall. Frost hinted the Huskers could pursue opponents outside of the Big Ten if the conference chooses not to play, an idea that certainly is gaining traction now that the conference has postponed its season.
“We want to play no matter who it is or where it is,” Frost said. “We certainly hope it's in the Big Ten, if it isn’t I think we’re prepared to look for other options.”
Senior cornerback Dicaprio Bootle, senior offensive lineman Matt Farniok and junior quarterback Adrian Martinez echoed Frost’s sentiments when they spoke to the media. All three of them said they’re focused on playing in the fall, no matter who the opponent is.
“We want to be able to represent the Big Ten, but if the Big Ten chooses to cancel, we are 100% open to playing whoever wants to play,” Farniok said.
The conference’s decision could also make a significant dent in the university’s athletic budget, according to Frost. He said that the university is slated to lose $80-$120 million if football is canceled, and that he is unsure how many sports will be able to exist at Nebraska if the athletic department loses that much money. Over the past few months, dozens of college sports programs have been cut due to coronavirus-related budget cuts.
In the interim, the conference expressed its appreciation for its member universities’ resources and expertise in dealing with the pandemic. According to the release, their guidance was “invaluable” as they worked toward creating a safe environment for Big Ten athletics.
“The Big Ten Conference will continue to work with medical experts and governmental authorities to gather additional information, evaluate emerging data and technologies, and monitor developments regarding the pandemic to make the best decisions possible for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes,” the release said.
According to the release, a decision regarding winter and spring sports will continue to be evaluated.