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Big Ten college sports league postpones fall season

view of fifty yard line on sideline of football field
iStock/DavidPrahl

iStock/DavidPrahlBY: KARMA ALLEN

(NEW YORK) — The Big Ten college sports conference announced Tuesday it is postponing its 2020 fall season, which includes football, soccer, cross country and other sports.

“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 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.”

The postponement applies to all fall sports, including men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball. Decisions regarding winter and spring sports are still being evaluated, according to the statement.

“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,” Warren said. “Although that knowledge made this a painstaking decision, it did not make it difficult.”

“The Big Ten Conference will continue to evaluate a number of options regarding these sports, including the possibility of competition in the spring,” he added.

The announcement came after weeks of speculation that the fall season might be canceled over safety concerns due to rising coronavirus infections.

Some college athletes had publicly advocated for the right to opt out of the coming season without jeopardizing their eligibility to play the following season.

The Mid-American Conference was the first to cancel its season last week, with officials saying it would be far too risky to hold a season during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the first time MAC had canceled a football season.

The NCAA board previously expressed “serious concerns about the continuing high levels of COVID-19 infection in many parts of the nation,” and it laid out a list of strict requirements for schools and conferences in light of the pandemic.

The board had said that it would only support moving forward with fall championships and other postseason play if “strict conditions are applied and adhered to.”

In football, the Big Ten Conference had scheduled 10 games with the season set to begin on Sept. 5.

Teams had been practicing in anticipation of the new season, but players weren’t allowed to wear pads or engage in full contact, officials said.

Some Big Ten football programs, including Rutgers and Northwestern, opted to postpone practice altogether, citing outbreaks among students and coaches.

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