Big Ten cancels fall sports

The Big Ten Conference announced that it would be postponing fall sports due to health and safety concerns during the pandemic.

A+cloth+mask+and+bouquet+of+flowers+are+seen+on+the+Goldy+statue+outside+Coffman+Memorial+Union+on+Wednesday%2C+April+1.+%28Parker+Johnson+%2F+Minnesota+Daily%29

A cloth mask and bouquet of flowers are seen on the Goldy statue outside Coffman Memorial Union on Wednesday, April 1. (Parker Johnson / Minnesota Daily)

Nolan O'Hara

On Tuesday, the Big Ten Conference announced the cancellation of fall sports due to the coronavirus pandemic, making it the first Power Five conference to cancel football. 

“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,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren in written statement.

Reports of cancellation first surfaced on Monday when Dan Patrick, an ESPN radio host, reported the Big Ten presidents voted to cancel the football season on a 12-2 vote, with Iowa and Nebraska voting against. A Big Ten official later told The New York Times no vote had taken place. 

Reports of the Big Ten’s decision and its impact on college football as a whole drew a wave of criticism across social media. Many coaches and student-athletes took to Twitter to advocate for a fall season, spreading the message with a graphic and the hashtag #WeWantToPlay.

null

WeWantToPlay pic.twitter.com/NgKG9Nab9c

A number of Big Ten coaches, including Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and Penn State head coach James Franklin, either tweeted or released statements in support of the season. 

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields was one of many prominent student-athletes to voice his support of the fall season. 

“There’s been too much work put in!! #WeWantToPlay,” Fields said on Twitter.

In the end, coaches and student-athletes were unable to sway the Big Ten’s decision, which comes as football programs, including Minnesota’s, were prepping for their upcoming seasons. Minnesota’s season was scheduled to start Sept. 5. The Big Ten is expected to push football into the spring. 

The Pac-12 quickly followed the Big Ten’s lead in canceling the fall season, becoming the second Power Five conference to do so. 

“While I know our decision today will be disappointing in many ways for our thousands of student-athletes and their families, I am heartened and inspired by their resilience, their insightful and discerning thoughts, and their participation through our conversations to this point,” Warren’s statement read. 

After the team’s first day of training camp on Friday, Gophers’ head coach P.J. Fleck spoke with the media and acknowledged the unknown in an ever changing pandemic but encouraged his team to focus on the present. Fleck also noted the team had no coronavirus cases at the time. 

“It’s a very humbling virus and it’s changing daily. And it could change as of tomorrow … Our number one priority is the safety of our student-athletes. Period,” Fleck told the media Friday. 

The cancellation is a blow to an improving Gophers’ football team that had its best season in recent memory last year, finishing with an 11-2 record and an Outback Bowl victory over Auburn. 

The cancellation of football is also a major blow the the Minnesota athletics department, which projected $75 million in lost revenue if no fall seasons take place. 

University president Joan Gabel and athletics director Mark Coyle released a joint statement in regards to the Big Ten’s decision. 

“We know our student-athletes want to compete and that our coaches want to coach. We share their extreme disappointment about not being able to do so this fall. We have a responsibility to our student-athletes, and everyone involved with our athletics programs, to put their health and safety above all else,” they said in the statement. 

This is a breaking news report. More information will be added as it becomes available.