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Coronavirus US: Big Ten postpones fall 2020 sports season

The Big Ten and Pac-12 have become the first ‘Power Five’ football conferences to cancel the upcoming fall season due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Presidents of the Big Ten Conference schools voted to postpone the upcoming football season with the hopes of playing in the spring, the leagues announced Tuesday. The Pac-12 followed by cancelling its football season several hours later. 

The postponements also impact men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball. In a statement, the Big Ten said it would ‘continue to evaluate a number of options regarding these sports, including the possibility of competition in the spring.’  

The Pac-12 – comprising 12 large western U.S. universities including the University of Southern California, Stanford University and University of California at Los Angeles – and the Big Ten are two of the so-called Power Five conferences whose athletic programs dominate the competition for national sports titles, especially in football.

The decisions by the Pac-12 and Big Ten will heighten the pressure on the remaining three Power Five leagues – the Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 Conference – to come to a determination about whether to proceed with a fall football season during a global pandemic.  

The Big Ten and Pac-12 are the third and fourth FBS conferences to postpone or outright cancel the football season, joining the MAC and Mountain West. 

‘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,’ Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. 

‘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.’ 

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said the Buckeyes would have preferred to play.

‘I wish we would have had a little more time to evaluate,’ Smith told Big Ten Network. 

Prior to the decisions, President Donald Trump spent two days urging college football administrators to proceed with the 2020 season, arguing that players were young healthy enough to overcome a coronavirus infection. 

‘You’re not going to see people dying,’ Trump told Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis. ‘And many people get it and they have — like kids they get it they have the sniffles. Young kids, almost none have a serious problem with it.

‘I mean literally, you look, I think they said the state of California almost nobody that’s young had a — like zero had a serious problem with this disease,’ he continued. ‘They get better very quickly, if they get it at all. So, I think football is making a tragic mistake [by not playing].’ 

The move comes amid concern that a rare heart condition could result from players contracting the coronavirus.

Five Big Ten players have reportedly been found to have myocarditis, which is inflammation of tissue in the heart. Usually the result of a viral infection, complications of myocarditis include heart damage and possibly fatal heart attacks.

An ESPN report cited two sources who have ‘knowledge of athletes’ medical care’ that five Big Ten players have been found to have myocarditis, which is inflammation of tissue in the heart.  

Usually the result of a viral infection, complications of myocarditis include heart damage and possibly fatal heart attacks.

Following in the footsteps of MLB and NFL players, college stars including Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence took to social media with the #WeWantToPlay hashtag. The joint statement proclaimed college stars with the most to lose — Lawrence is the purported No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft — are aligning with a mission to get back on the field this fall. 

There are some rumblings that Big Ten and Pac-12 schools could join another conference for the 2020 season in order to play this fall, and Nebraska coach Eric Frost certainly seems open to that idea. 

‘Our University is committed to playing no matter what, no matter what that looks like and how that looks,’ he told reporters Monday. ‘We want to play no matter who it is or where it is.’  

Several politicians also weighed in on the news this week, including US Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a former Ohio State assistant wrestling coach, who tweeted: ‘America needs college football.’

US Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) also argued in favor of playing the 2020 fall football season amid the pandemic. 

‘Here’s the reality,’ Sasse wrote in a statement. ‘Many of you think that football is safer than no football, but you also know that you will be blamed if there is football, whereas you can duck any blame if you cancel football.

‘This is a moment for leadership. These young men need a season. Please don’t cancel college football.’ 

Meanwhile Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told Fox Sports Radio that the ACC and SEC should poach Big Ten players for the upcoming season. 

‘Not only should they make the best decision for themselves and not let the Big Ten lead them into canceling sports, what they should do is they should reach out to all the Big Ten athletes and say, ‘Hey, we’re playing,” said DeSantis.   

Florida is home to one SEC school, the University of Florida, and two ACC schools, Florida State and the University of Miami.  

‘I mean, look, I don’t want [Ohio State quarterback] Justin fields playing against Florida teams, but I mean, at the end of the day, I think you’re going to see if there’s parts of the country that won’t allow the opportunity in other parts,’ DeSantis continued. You’re already seeing you have some high school athletes that are moving from California to Georgia and stuff. I think you’ll see that happen.’ 

As for the ACC, Big 12 and SEC, those conferences had wanted to assess the situation after students returned to campuses this month, but ESPN stated that any postponements by the Pac-12 or Big Ten may force their hand.

The Mid-American Conference on Saturday voted to postpone fall sports, making it the first FBS conference to postpone football. The MAC is hoping to play in the spring instead. 

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