The Big Ten's progress toward a football season has screeched to a halt.
The conference announced in a statement on Saturday morning that it will not allow its football teams to move forward to padded, full-contact practices until further notice. Teams will still be allowed to conduct practices with helmets only.
The Big Ten also acknowledged in Saturday's statement “there are many questions regarding how this impacts schedules, as well as the feasibility of proceeding forward with the season at all,” and the conference “will continue to evaluate daily, while relying on our medical experts, to make the best decisions possible for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes.”
The full statement:
The Big Ten Conference announced today, based on the advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, that, until further notice, all institutions will remain in the first two days of the acclimatization period in football (i.e., helmets shall be the only piece of protective equipment student-athletes may wear) as we continue to transition prudently through preseason practice. All other fall sports will continue to work locally with team physicians and athletic trainers to adjust practices to the appropriate level of activity, as necessary, based on current medical protocols.
Each new phase of activity provides new intelligence and experience and allows us to evaluate the implementation of our Conference and institutional medical protocols in real-time. In order to make the right health and safety decisions for our student-athletes, we believe it is best to continue in the appropriate phase of activity referenced above while we digest and share information from each campus to ensure we are moving forward cautiously.
We understand there are many questions regarding how this impacts schedules, as well as the feasibility of proceeding forward with the season at all. As we have consistently stated, we will continue to evaluate daily, while relying on our medical experts, to make the best decisions possible for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes.
Before Saturday's announcement, Ohio State had been planning to proceed forward with its usual preseason camp schedule – with 24 total practices leading up to its newly scheduled season opener at Illinois on Sept. 3 – after opening camp on Thursday. Ohio State coach Ryan Day said then that he was confident with the team's plan for camp.
“We feel great about training camp in terms of where we’re at with our testing and the way that we’re handling our protocols and procedures,” Day said Thursday. “In terms of helmets and shoulder pads and full pads, we’re ready to go on all those phases.”
Now, though, Ohio State will be forced to adjust its preseason camp plans – while it's now highly unlikely that the season will be able to start in the first week of September – and brace for the increasing reality that the Big Ten might not play football this fall.
Big Ten presidents were expected to discuss the college football season during a scheduled meeting on Saturday, and Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel reported that “all options are on the table” and that “there's some presidential momentum for canceling the fall football season.”
Source: Big Ten presidents are meeting today. All options are on the table. There's some presidential momentum for canceling the fall football season. It's unknown if there's enough support to make that decision today.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) August 8, 2020
A Big Ten spokesperson told reporters, however, that no vote on the 2020 college football season was planned for Saturday's meeting. Ohio State president-elect Kristina Johnson, whose tenure as president is set to begin on Aug. 24, was not on the call but was to be briefed on the call by Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, an Ohio State spokesperson told reporters.
Earlier Saturday, the MAC became the first FBS conference to officially postpone its fall sports to spring.