Big Ten moves to conference-only schedule for fall 2020 season


Daily file photo by Ben Pope

Ryan Fieldhouse, the practice facility for Northwestern football. On Thursday afternoon, the Big Ten conference announced that all fall sports teams of member universities will play a conference-only schedule.

Drew Schott, Reporter

The Big Ten conference announced this afternoon that all fall sports, including football, will play a conference-only schedule.

“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,” a Big Ten press release said.

The decision comes one day after the Ivy League announced the suspension of all fall sports until 2021. Earlier today, the Atlantic Coast Conference delayed all competition for fall Olympic sports until Sept. 1. The Big Ten is the first FBS conference to eliminate all non-conference play.

The conference — composed of 14 academic institutions — said that football, cross country, field hockey, soccer and women’s volleyball will play under the revised schedule.

According to ESPN, presidents and athletic directors for Big Ten universities — who spoke earlier in the week on a conference call — favored a conference-only schedule for football because of less team travel and the ability to test squads “universally” for COVID-19.

Under the plan, the conference’s athletic programs will lose marquee matchups against non-conference schools, especially in football. Games that will no longer happen on the gridiron include Michigan versus Washington in Seattle and Ohio State — the defending Big Ten champion — versus Oregon — the defending Pac-12 Conference champion — in Eugene, Oregon.

Since each Big Ten program plays nine conference games each season, a potential option to fill teams’ schedules is to add another league game.

For the upcoming season, Northwestern football tentatively maintains its Big Ten clashes against Michigan State, Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland, Iowa, Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota, in-state rival Illinois and possibly another to-be-announced conference opponent. The Wildcats will lose non-conference matchups against Tulane, Central Michigan and Morgan State.

One question that has yet to be answered is how the schedule will impact NU programs, like golf and swimming and diving, because they participated in athletic events this past fall. The Big Ten said that decisions on sports not mentioned in its press release “will continue to be evaluated.”

The conference said that summer workouts and activities on campus will remain voluntary and that any athlete who does not participate athletically during the summer or the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 worries “will continue to have their scholarship honored by their institution and will remain in good standing with their team.”

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