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Big Ten, Pac-12 pull plug on fall college football seasons

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The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences have both voted to postpone all fall sports seasons, including college football, in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic, with hopes of playing in spring 2021.

All eyes are now on the three other Power Five conferences – Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference – to see if they follow suit. Both the ACC and SEC said their plans to continue remain unchanged for now.

It is believed that the Big 12’s decision to play fall college football or not is likely to sway the ACC and SEC into following suit, in large part due to the optics involved. According to multiple reports, the Big 12 is moving forward with plans to play in the fall.

Although not unexpected, the Big Ten and Pac-12’s move – which came despite opposition from athletes, coaches, administrators and even US president Donald Trump – is monumental due to the vast revenues and publicity that the top college football programs bring to their universities and entire athletic departments.

According to a Washington University report commissioned by ESPN, the 65 Power Five schools would collectively lose more than $4bn in revenues, with at least $1.2bn of that due to lost ticket revenue, if the college football season is called off completely.

“All the decisions we would make during my tenure here will always put the mental and physical health and wellness of our student-athletes at the center,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren told Big Ten Network. “We just believed collectively there’s too much uncertainty at this point in time in our country to encourage our student-athletes to participate in fall sports.”

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement: “The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our No.1 priority since the start of this current crisis. Our student-athletes, fans, staff and all those who love college sports would like to have seen the season played this calendar year as originally planned, and we know how disappointing this is.”

In a further development, the University of Massachusetts became the third individual college to cancel its fall football season, joining the University of Connecticut and Old Dominion. The Mid-American Conference and the Mountain West Conference have also postponed all fall sports, as has the Ivy League.

Despite the Big Ten’s announcement, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is actively looking for a way to play college football this fall.

“We will continue to consult with medical experts and evaluate the situation as it emerges. We hope it may be possible for our student athletes to have the opportunity to compete,” a statement read.

The fate of the lucrative College Football Playoff remains unclear, while it is also uncertain if student-athletes could gain an extra year of eligibility to compete if the college football season is called off completely.

It is believed the National Football League will look to capitalize on the absence of college football this fall by scheduling further games on Saturdays. The possibility of spring college football seasons would, however, likely impact the 2021 NFL Draft and the entire draft process, leading to a possible delay of that event.

College sports has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. Earlier this year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments due to the pandemic.

It was the first time the NCAA men’s tournament, or March Madness as it is colloquially known, was not held since it began in 1939.