Big Ten plans for conference-only games for fall sports
Decision designed to protect student-athletes
The Big Ten Conference announced today that it will move to a conference-only schedule for fall sports.
The move allows the conference flexibility in planning schedules as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the country, said Gene Smith, Ohio State University senior vice president and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletics Director. “We can be nimble. We can adjust.”
In a statement, the Big Ten noted that conference decisions about fall sports are based on advice from experts in sports medicine and emerging infectious diseases as well as state and local regulations.
Smith encouraged fans of Big Ten athletics to follow the recommendations of the medical community as well, including adhering to social distancing guidelines and wearing masks.
“People need to follow the protocols to give our kids a chance to compete,” he said. “We need the virus to be managed differently than it is now.”
The Big Ten Conference issued the following statement today (July 9):
“We are facing uncertain and unprecedented times, and the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, game officials, and others associated with our sports programs and campuses remain our number one priority.
“To that end, the Big Ten Conference announced today that if the conference is able to participate in fall sports (men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball) based on medical advice, it will move to conference-only schedules in those sports. Details for these sports will be released at a later date, while decisions on sports not listed above will continue to be evaluated. By limiting competition to other Big Ten institutions, the conference will have the greatest flexibility to adjust its own operations throughout the season and make quick decisions in real time based on the most current evolving medical advice and the fluid nature of the pandemic.
“This decision was made following many thoughtful conversations over several months between the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, directors of athletics, conference office staff and medical experts, including the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.
“In addition, the conference announced that summer athletic activities will continue to be voluntary in all sports currently permitted to engage in such activities. Furthermore, Big Ten student-athletes who choose not to participate in intercollegiate athletics at any time during the summer and/or the 2020-21 academic year due to concerns about COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarship honored by their institution and will remain in good standing with their team.
“While Big Ten member institutions continue to rely on the most up-to-date medical information to establish the best protocols for voluntary workouts on their campuses, in compliance with local and state regulations, the conference is working with the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee to finalize conference-wide protocols.
“As we continue to focus on how to play this season in a safe and responsible way, based on the best advice of medical experts, we are also prepared not to play in order to ensure the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes should the circumstances so dictate.”