(WTVO/WQRF)–The Big Ten Conference has joined the Mid-American Conference and the Mountain West Conference in deciding to postpone fall sports for 2020. Conference officials made the announcement Tuesday afternoon.
Presidents and Chancellors from the 14-member schools agreed it was too risky to hold competitions in the current climate of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff,” said Morton Schapiro, Chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University President in a statement released by the Big Ten.
“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. “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 decision impacts the sports of football, men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball.
“The discussions that led to the decision to postpone fall sports were as frank and honest as they were difficult,” Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones said in a statement on the University of Illinois website. “We recognize the intense disappointment this will bring to our student-athletes, coaches, athletic staff and fans. But as important as collegiate athletic competition is to the Big Ten university experience, the health and safety of our students, staff, faculty and campus community must be our priority. There are just too many unknowns with COVID-19 today and the future continues to be just as unclear as it was months ago. We feel this decision offers the best way to maximize the safety of everyone involved. But that doesn’t make it any easier to hear for any of us who love sports.”
“My heart hurts for our student-athletes and coaches,” Director of Athletics Josh Whitman said. “Over these last months, countless people, including our student-athletes, coaches, sports medicine professionals, and so many other staff members have worked tirelessly to give our teams the best chance to compete this fall. Our people have done everything we have asked of them, which makes today’s decision so disappointing. The bar set here at the University of Illinois for testing and the return-to-play protocol is second-to-none, and I am proud of our progress.”
“Unfortunately, despite best efforts on our campus and across the conference, the remaining unknowns and uncertainties stemming from COVID-19 ultimately proved insurmountable.”
The fall sports could possibly be moved to the spring, but no decision has been made regarding that. Decisions regarding winter and spring sports have not been made either.