Big Ten to limit football, fall sports to conference games

AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File

FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren addresses the media in Indianapolis after it was announced that the remainder of the Big Ten Conference men's basketball tournament had been canceled. Warren, the first black commissioner of a Power Five conference, is creating a coalition to give the league's athletes a platform to voice their concerns about racism. Warren announced Monday, June 1, 2020, the formation of the Big Ten Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition, with athletes, coaches, athletic director and university chancellors and presidents.

Fall sports won’t happen for the Ivy League, which offered the potential to be the first domino to fall in COVID-19 cancellations for college athletics this coming semester.

Despite the Ivy League’s Wednesday announcement, the rest of the proverbial tiles are still upright. Although, one major league — the Big Ten Conference — appeared to be shaken by it. 

The likes of Ohio State and Michigan, along with their conference mates, will play a Big Ten-only football schedule in 2020. The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach reported the news just after 2 p.m. Thursday. The league then confirmed it with an official statement two hours later.

“We are facing uncertain and unprecedented times, and the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, game officials, and others associated with our sports programs and campuses remain our No. 1 priority,” the conference said in a release. 

“To that end, the Big Ten Conference announced today that if the Conference is able to participate in fall sports (men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball) based on medical advice, it will move to Conference-only schedules in those sports.”

How the new schedules will look will be released at a later time. Marquee nonconference tilts, like Ohio State's trip to Oregon on Sept. 12, will be out of the equation. Iowa State’s annual meeting with Iowa is out. Wisconsin and Notre Dame’s Oct. 3 clash at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field won’t happen. And Penn State will not visit Virginia Tech.

The chain reaction to the Big Ten’s announcement wasn’t all that surprising. The Pac-12 will announce a similar choice soon, according to Sean O'Connell, who hosts "Pac-12 Today" on SiriusXM. The Atlantic Coast Conference will also follow suit, per Stadium's Brett McMurphy.

The Big 12 and Southeastern Conferences are not ready to budge as of late Thursday. The SEC said as much in its statement released Thursday afternoon. And while the Big 12 hasn't publicly commented, Des Moines Register's Randy Peterson reported Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby denied any imminent plans of implementing a conference-only schedule.

It’s plenty of chaos to monitor for a sport driven by it. The craziness typically happens during the season when an Associated Press Top 25 team loses inexplicably on the road or a conference plays itself out of a College Football Playoff invitation due to too much parity.

A uniform voice might make things easier to follow, or at least, understand. 

The ripple effect of one league eliminating nonconference games, while others maintain their original plans, creates plenty of confusion. And NCAA president Mark Emmert ruled out any NCAA involvement in a uniform return to play, in a May interview with ESPN.com.

It makes sense, considering the NCAA doesn’t even officially crown a national champion in college football. If it did, some schools might have fewer national titles to claim with the myriad selectors that inhabit the sport.

The NCAA swooping in to unify college football isn't reality. The major conferences will do as they see fit, although there’s sure to be financial ramifications with leagues opting out of nonconference games that are big revenue drivers for smaller schools.

One has to hope there can be a common dialogue to find the best course of action.

Even if that ship has already sailed into the college football night.

Joe Buettner

405-366-3580

Follow me @ByJoeBuettner

jbuettner@normantranscript.com

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