The Big Ten conference is deep in discussions about the fate of the league’s 2020 football season.
Sources told Yahoo Sports that the league’s presidents and chancellors were meeting on Sunday night, and would be discussing the future of the 2020 football season and the league’s fall sports for the second consecutive day. A final decision isn’t guaranteed, but after a presidents call on Saturday afternoon there’s significant sentiment toward canceling the fall season.
In the presidents’ call on Saturday, sources told Yahoo Sports there was a strong majority – but not unanimous – in support of canceling the season. The group took more than 24 hours before reconvening on Sunday night to discuss the issues again.
Sources around the league have indicated that there’s an expectation that the league will cancel fall sports. 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.
The optics of such a decision are going to be in play. Does the Big Ten want to go alone? Pac-12 presidents are philosophically aligned with those in the Big Ten, as there are still significant local restrictions in California that are disrupting. Schools there are starting practice, but the Pac-12 has yet to reach a final decision on the season. Part of that is because of a hesitancy to be the first major conference to do so, which would leave them vulnerable to criticism.
The Big Ten charted a conference only course for the 2020 football season. That might change dramatically. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
The Big Ten’s most likely ally in stepping to the sideline will be the Pac-12. That league’s athletic directors have a Sunday night call planned and the presidents and chancellors have a Tuesday call.
The Power Five commissioners spoke on Sunday, but the varied agendas and complications of each league make it unlikely that there will be some imminent unified announcement throughout college sports. The potential end of college football in 2020 projects to be as disjoined and messy as the end of college basketball in March.
The commissioners went out of their way to dispute an ESPN report that it was an “emergency” meeting, an attempt to bring some calm to the landscape. The SEC and Big 12 in particular have been bullish the past few months on the prospect of playing this season.
The Big Ten has essentially flashed neon signs the past three months about the league’s concerns over playing the college football season. First-year commissioner Kevin Warren has seemingly gone out of his way in interviews and in league documents to leave breadcrumbs that there’s a strong possibility of a fall with no football.
The latest of those came on Saturday when the league announced that teams were pausing their practice plans and were not allowed to progress to full-contact practices with pads. If you can’t practice, you can’t play. And that pause was a glaring sign that underscored the uncertainty in the league.
Warren’s message has been consistent. He told Yahoo Sports more than a month ago that he was “very concerned” about the fate of the season in an interview about the Big Ten going to a conference-only schedule. The league’s schedule release took on a macabre tone, including a declaration that the release of a schedule does not guarantee it will be played.
“While the conference remains hopeful for a September 2020 start in all fall sports, including football, issuing a schedule does not guarantee that competition will occur,” the news release said.
And amid a hectic weekend, the chances of Big Ten football in 2020 appear dim.
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