The Big Ten, one of college football’s elite “Power Five” conferences, has voted to cancel the fall football season because of COVID-19 health and safety concerns, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Presidents for the conference’s 14 universities reportedly voted 12-2 to cancel the fall season, with Iowa and Nebraska as the two schools that voted to play, according to sources who spoke to the Free Press anonymously because they weren’t authorized to talk about it publicly yet.
A heart condition linked to COVID-19 has been found in five Big Ten athletes, reportedly fueling concerns about whether the season should be played.
The Big Ten bailing on the fall season could be the first major domino to fall that leads other top schools or conferences to make the same decision, although there is not unanimity among the five conferences about how to go forward. Some want to go forward with the fall, others favor pushing the season to the spring in hopes that the pandemic will be more under control by then.
The Mid-American Conference, which is not in the Power Five, became the first school in the Football Bowl Subdivision to cancel its season.
The Chicago Tribune has reported that it was told by another Big Ten source that no final decision has been made regarding cancellation of the season.
Despite the vote from the presidents, players and coaches from around the country, including from Big Ten schools that voted to cancel, have publicly expressed their desire to play. Some have argued that players are actually safer within the confines of a controlled campus athletics environment than they would be at home.
“I want to play, but I want to play for the players’ sake, the value they can create for themselves,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban told ESPN. “I know I’ll be criticized no matter what I say, that I don’t care about player safety. Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home. We have around a 2% positive ratio on our team since the Fourth of July. It’s a lot higher than that in society. We act like these guys can’t get this unless they play football. They can get it anywhere, whether they’re in a bar or just hanging out.”
The potential for some Power Five conferences to cancel fall seasons has led to speculation that schools that want to play may attempt to switch conferences and join other schools that want to go forward with the season, although such movement could be prohibited under contractual agreements.