The Big Ten is close to postponing football season from fall to spring semester because of the pandemic, with an announcement expected in coming days, according to multiple news outlets.
Big Ten chancellors and presidents met Sunday for a second consecutive day, according to reports, and there also was a meeting of the Power Five conference commissioners.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that the Big Ten’s announcement would come Monday before changing the timing to “early this week.” Yahoo’s Pete Thamel wrote on Twitter, “Source: Big Ten Presidents remain on the cusp of canceling the season, but the league isn’t ready to announce. The decision is close, but not final.
A Sports Illustrated story added, “Sources told SI on Sunday that the Big Ten is moving toward a decision to cancel the 2020 fall season, while engaging other Power [Five] conferences on a uniform decision to be announced later this week.”
The Big Ten and other conferences formally unveiled a new football schedule last week, to considerable hype; the Gophers are slated to open their 10-game, conference-only schedule on Sept. 5 at Michigan State. But by weekend’s end, all signs pointed toward these conferences pushing the pause button soon. The Mid-American Conference postponed fall sports on Saturday because of the pandemic.
The conversation then shifted to which Power Five conference would be the first to postpone fall sports, or if multiple conferences would make the move in conjunction with each other, to lessen expected criticism.
The Gophers opened training camp Friday, practicing without full pads, and on Saturday, the Big Ten sent out a new mandate that teams could not begin full-padded practices until further notice.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck hinted that could be coming during his Friday news conference.
“There’s not even a plan to put pads on until even next week, like a week from now, and that might even be pushed back,” Fleck said. “So we are going to do things at a snail’s pace to make sure that our student-athletes are safe.”
Fleck said Friday that as training camp opened, he knew of no players on his team who were positive for COVID-19. Players have been getting tested during workouts.
At least six other Big Ten teams have halted workouts because of positive tests — Rutgers, Northwestern, Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana and Maryland.
Gophers junior Rashod Bateman, last year’s Big Ten receiver of the year, announced last week that he is opting out of this season to prepare for the 2021 NFL draft. Scores of players around the country are doing the same.
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren has been vocal about his concerns about a football season being played. His son, Powers, is a football player at Mississippi State.
After the Big Ten released its schedule last week, Warren said: “I’ve asked myself as a father, would I be comfortable for him to participate in the Big Ten based upon the testing policies, protocols and procedures we have in place? And as of today, the answer is yes.”
But over the weekend, it sounded like that answer had changed.
Meanwhile, some players around the country tweeted their desire to keep the season going, using the hashtag #WeWantToPlay.
Among those were Clemson’s star quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who tweeted: “Let’s work together to create a situation where we can play the game that all of us love. Not divide and argue. There is a way forward.”