ROSEMONT, Ill. — While reports surfaced on Monday about the potential of the Big Ten calling off the upcoming fall sports season, the conference made it official on Tuesday.
In a statement from the Big Ten, conference officials are postponing the 2020-21 fall season, including regular-season and Big Ten Championship and Big Ten Tournament contests, citing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Big Ten officials said the decision was based on multiple factors, including the medical advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emergence Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.
“Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff,” said Chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro in a statement.
University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel and Director of Athletic Mark Coyle issued a joint statement following the decision:
The Big Ten Conference and its member institutions have thoughtfully considered the latest public health data and advice of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee throughout discussions about student-athlete safety and the viability of the conference’s fall sports seasons. As of today, the medical evidence and expert perspectives presented to us as conference leaders raise serious concerns about the safety of playing fall sports.
We know our student-athletes want to compete and that our coaches want to coach. We share their extreme disappointment about not being able to do so this fall. We have a responsibility to our student-athletes, and everyone involved with our athletics programs, to put their health and safety above all else. That responsibility remained our top priority throughout these discussions and it’s why this decision was made.
We welcome our student-athletes to remain on campus to study, to train and to practice within Big Ten Conference and NCAA established limits. We are committed to the safest environment for all of our students, including our student-athletes.
The fall sports impacted by this decision are men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball.
“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,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren in a statement. “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.
“We know how significant the student-athlete experience can be in shaping the future of the talented young women and men who compete in the Big Ten Conference. Although that knowledge made this a painstaking decision, it did not make it difficult. While I know our decision today will be disappointing in many ways for our thousands of student-athletes and their families, I am heartened and inspired by their resilience, their insightful and discerning thoughts, and their participation through our conversations to this point. Everyone associated with the Big Ten Conference and its member institutions is committed to getting everyone back to competition as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Officials say they're still looking into several potential options for the fall sports, including the possibility of competition in the spring.
The possibility of the Big Ten canceling football and other fall sports first surfaced Monday, when several sources reported that the presidents of Big Ten institutions had informally voted 12-2 in favor of scuttling the season.