Take Western Kentucky, Ball State and UConn off the football schedule. And the IU Credit Union Classic? Go ahead and rip that up, too.
If there are college sports this fall — and right now that feels like a big if — there won’t be any non-conference matchups on the Indiana athletics calendar. The Big Ten announced Thursday that it is shifting to conference-only schedules across all fall sports in a move that will have significant reverberations across the college sports landscape.
In a statement, the conference made no guarantees that there will be Big Ten competition of any kind this fall in men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball. However, if it is deemed safe to play in the coming months, the conference says a league-only model will allow it more maneuverability to adjust plans as our understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.
“Details for these sports will be released at a later date, while decisions on sports not listed above will continue to be evaluated,” the statement reads. “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.”
The Big Ten’s announcement comes 24 hours after Ohio State suspended voluntary workouts due to a surge in positive COVID-19 test results. At the beginning of the week, the Ivy League announced it would halt all sports until at least Jan. 1, 2021.
So, how is this going to work? That remains to be seen. Part of the puzzle will be figuring out what to do with the non-conference contracts in place, and whether the schools or the Big Ten (or no one at all!) will have to pay forfeiture fees. Reducing guarantee games will have a devastating financial effect on the schools that enter into those contracts for the pay day. It’s also unclear how the Big Ten will structure schedules and implement league-wide standardized testing.
“Throughout this process the health and safety of our students, coaches, staff and fans has been our number one priority, and I want to thank Commissioner Warren for his leadership as we navigate these unprecedented and challenging times,” IU athletic director Scott Dolson said in a statement. “I also appreciate the tremendous support and patience that our fans continue to display as we map out the best path to be able to move forward safely. Along with my fellow Big Ten athletic directors, we know that there remain many questions that still need to be answered, and we will work toward finding those answers in the coming weeks.”
Please wear a mask.