The Big Ten is on the verge of canceling football this fall, a historic move in the midst of a global COVID-19 pandemic that has infected more than 5 million people and claimed more than 160,000 lives in the United States.
The Detroit Free Press reported Monday morning a decision has already been made, while a source told the Dan Patrick Show that 12 of 14 Big Ten Presidents voted on Sunday night to cancel the season, with Nebraska and Iowa being the only two schools wanting to move forward.
The decision comes on the heels of the Mid-American Conference announcing its decision on Saturday to postpone all fall sports, including football.
Indiana football had an off day of practice on Monday after practicing for four days from Thursday through Sunday.
“Realize there’s a lot of speculation and a lot of things going on right now,” Indiana football coach Tom Allen said. “But just as always nothing changes for me. We don’t blink. We focus on what we know, we focus on today and that’s been our message to our guys and that’s no different.”
There is no word yet on the possibility of the Big Ten attempting to move the football season to the spring. According to a Detroit Free Press article, new Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren prefers trying a spring schedule.
When asked about playing in the spring, Allen said: “I really haven’t let my mind go there to be honest with you. I think it would create a lot of challenges. I would have a lot of concerns about that. But at the same time, I would have to sit down and think it through more specifically. I think the biggest thing you always try to think about is the year-round calendar approach you have towards the development of your team and their bodies and the load that they have and the stress level they have on their bodies in both contact as well as weight room.”
The Big Ten was created in 1895 and is currently headquartered in Rosemont, Ill. This year’s cancelation marks the first for the conference, which played football games during World War II.
Penn State opened its fall camp last Friday, signaling the first time since the Dec. 28 Cotton Bowl the Nittany Lions were able to participate in a full practice. Penn State is scheduled to host Northwestern on Sept. 5 in its opener.
Optimism among the Big Ten’s football players and coaches established on Friday, however, was tabled as the Big Ten on Saturday directed all of its football programs to cease from practicing in full pads – just helmets.
“The Big Ten Conference announced (Saturday), based on the advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, that, until further notice, all institutions will remain in the first two days of the acclimatization period in football (i.e., helmets shall be the only piece of protective equipment student-athletes may wear) as we continue to transition prudently through preseason practice,” the Big Ten said in a statement released on Saturday.
Penn State football players over the weekend voiced their support for a 2020 season on social media behind an “IWantToPlay” hashtag that was liked and shared by the masses on Twitter.
“Since day one coming back to campus the Penn State Football staff and medical experts have put our health and safety first, above anything else,” Penn State tight end Pat Feiermuth tweeted on Saturday. “The guidelines put into place keep us safe while playing the game we love. We are ready to play and we want to play.”
Freiermuth’s mother, Dianne Freiermuth, is the president of the Penn State Parents Association. On Sunday evening, speaking on behalf of Penn State football players’ parents, Dianne Freiermuth shared a five-paragraph letter in favor of playing a 2020 season.
“The Penn State Football Parents Association supports the standards set by the Big Ten Conference. Our sons are regularly tested and contact tracing protocols have been developed to ensure player safety as well as parent confidence,” read part of Dianne Freiermuth’s letter. “A small number of athletes have been quarantined and isolated as an appropriate response to a positive test result. I truly believe that these young men are being cared for both physically and mentally in a manner that could not be replicated in their own homes.”
But even as the Big Ten unveiled a conference only football schedule last week, there remained growing concerns about whether schools could pull off playing safely during a pandemic. Rutgers remained sidelined from football workouts this week due to mass COVID-19 outbreak that impacted players, coaches and staff. Also last week, the mother of Indiana freshman offensive lineman Brady Feeney revealed in a Facebook post that Feeney was hospitalized with breathing issues and may have heart-related issues after being one of six IU football players who tested positive for COVID-19 last month.