Four days after the Big Ten promoted a revamped 2020 football schedule, the conference appears close to pulling the plug on its new plans all together.
Big Ten presidents and chancellors met Saturday and Sunday and dim prospects emerged for playing a season set to begin amid the coronavirus pandemic in less than a month.
“Sources around the league have indicated that there’s an expectation that the league will cancel fall sports,” Yahoo Sports reported. “The variable in question remains when the decision is made and whether the Big Ten can convince anyone else in joining it on the sideline.”
Late Sunday, Yahoo added: “The Big Ten’s decision is close but not final.”
Commissioners from the Big Ten and other Power Five conferences met Sunday to discuss mounting concerns about whether a season can be played amid a pandemic.
After the commissioners meeting, Big 12’s Bob Bowlsby said no decisions on the season have been made, but conceded the outlook has not improved with new data on myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart in some COVID-19 patients.
“Are we in a better place today than two weeks, ago?” he said. “No, we’re not.”
The Detroit Free Press said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren prefers a spring football season. During the schedule release Wednesday, Warren told Big Ten Network: “It would be purely speculation for me to sit here today and say this is what percent I think we will have a season.”
University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel is presumed to be on these top-level calls. The ultimate decision is believed to be in the hands of her and her colleagues within the largest conferences.
On Friday, Gabel, who has not spoken publicly on the topic, retweeted a message from St. Louis, Mo., high school football coach Carl Reed:
In a tongue-in-cheek way, Reed wrote: “It appears all my former players in D2, D3, NAIA, FCS and Juco are not safe and are in danger of catching cover. But my guys playing Division 1 football are going to be ok. They can’t get it.”
Gabel later took the tweet down, but it might be a window into her thinking on the issue. The severity of a decision comes with the Gophers estimating a $75 million revenue hit to a department’s $130 million budget if there are no games this fall.
The U said in late July the majority of classes on campus this fall would move to distance learning. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s football program had it’s first day of preseason camp at the Athletes’ Village on Friday.
Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck said Friday his team would not practice in pads for an extended period of time, potentially not until next weekend.
On Saturday, the Big Ten said programs would need to remain in the “acclimatization period” of fall camp where players don’t wear pads as the “transition prudently” based on its medical advice for COVID-19.
“This year, when you look at it, my job is to make our team the healthiest team on the field, the safest team on the field and the most prepared team on the field,” Fleck said. “But football is going to come backseat to the safety, period.”
The Gophers, who had no known positive cases on Friday, are scheduled to open Sept. 5 at Michigan State and play 10 total conference games over a 14-week period to mix in potential delays.
Some college players, including Gophers freshman safety Michael Dixon, tweeted #WeWantToPlay in support of a season.
Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence, a Heisman Trophy candidate, had a more detailed message.
“People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Lawrence tweeted. “Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid19.”