Big Ten pulls the plug on fall sports

NILES — After several days of speculation, the Big Ten Conference announced it was postponing the 2020-21 fall sports season.

That would include all regular-season contests and Big Ten championships and tournaments.

The decision was made Monday morning following a meeting of the league’s presidents. They based their decisions on multiple factors, according to a statement released just after 3 p.m. Wednesday. The league sought advice council from its Big Ten Taskforce of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.

“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.

“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.

“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. Although that knowledge made this a painstaking decision, it did not make it difficult. While I know our decision today will be disappointing in many ways for our thousands of student-athletes and their families, I am heartened and inspired by their resilience, their insightful and discerning thoughts, and their participation through our conversations to this point. Everyone associated with the Big Ten Conference and its member institutions is committed to getting everyone back to competition as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Other sports affected by this decision other than football are men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball.

The Big Ten Conference is looking to potentially play all those sports in the spring. Decisions on winter and spring sports will be made at a later date.

Michigan Director of Athletics Warde Manuel was disappointed but said he understood the decision.

“For the second time in five months, the Big Ten Conference made the unfortunate, but necessary decision to postpone an athletic season in order to protect the health and well-being of our student-athletes, staff, and community members,” he said. “As a result, all fall sport schedules have been postponed. This latest decision was reached after careful consideration and the grim knowledge that this pandemic continues to affect our country adversely. I am deeply saddened for our student-athletes and remain committed to our ongoing promise to provide them with a world-class education. We remain grateful to our global Michigan family for their unwavering support.”

First-year Michigan State Coach Mel Tucker’s team was pulled off the practice field and notified of the decision.

“From the beginning of this public health crisis there have been many unknowns for college football, thus it was important for me to listen and follow our medical staff and medical experts’ protocols for our workouts, practices and playing,” he said. “The uncertainties caused by COVID-19 have created enormous stress for our players and their families and I am proud of their resilience. Our coaches and staff will continue to support their drive, dreams and decisions. While the conclusion to postpone the season is not easy for anyone, based on the medical recommendations, I respect the decision of the Big Ten Conference.”

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