Sources: Big Ten expected to cancel football season for fall; no games for Michigan, Michigan State in 2020
The Big Ten is expected to cancel its fall college football season in a historic move that stems from concerns related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, multiple people with knowledge of the decision told the Free Press early Monday.
"It's done," one high-ranking source in the Big Ten said Monday afternoon.
Sources said Big Ten presidents were in favor Sunday of not playing sports in the conference this fall. Michigan and Michigan State — which both have physicians as presidents — were among the schools in favor of not playing, sources said.
Multiple sources said early Monday morning that presidents voted 12-2 to not play this fall, though the Big Ten said Monday afternoon no official vote had taken place. Dan Patrick, who first reported the 12-2 vote, said on his radio show that Iowa and Nebraska were the two schools in favor of playing.
The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the decision. A formal announcement was expected Tuesday, multiple sources said early Monday. The situation was fluid, sources said, as the Big Ten wanted to coordinate any announcement with other Power Five conferences.
Since then, coaches and players in the conference, including Michigan's Jim Harbaugh, Ohio State's Ryan Day and Nebraska's Scott Frost and OSU quarterback Justin Fields, have lobbied for the season to commence this fall.
"Swinging as hard as we possibly can right now for these players!! This isn't over!," Day tweeted.
Harbaugh ended his statement released by the university with the hashtags: #WeWantToPlay and #WeWantToCoach.
On Monday afternoon, after those statements, ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit tweeted: "To be clear regarding (Big Ten football) and their impending announcement — they are looking TO DELAY the start of the season NOT TO CANCEL."
"As we know this is a very fluid and ongoing situation," Herbstreit said in a follow-up tweet. "Things are said one minute and changed the next. So we’ll see what happens in the next 24-48 hours. Numerous options in play. We can all hope there will be CFB at some point."
The Chicago Tribune reported around noon that "a top-level" Big Ten source texted that, "No final decisions have been made," while the Columbus Dispatch reported as of 12:25 p.m. that Ohio State had not yet been ordered to suspend practices.
The news of a delay or cancellation comes two days after the Mid-American Conference became the first in the FBS to cancel its season.
Sources told the Free Press on Saturday that Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren prefers a spring football season, although no decision had been made.
On Monday, Michigan State football moved its scheduled off day from Tuesday to Monday because of the uncertainty of the 2020 season, three people with direct knowledge of the situation told the Free Press. The program still held its scheduled off-day walk-through.
Iowa also canceled Monday's 11 a.m. practice, according to the Des Moines Register. And Purdue reportedly rescheduled its media availability.
As of Monday morning, MSU and Michigan players had not yet been told of any decision to cancel the 2020 season, sources at each school said. Two sources said MSU coaches were hopeful more information would be provided Monday.
Presidents were trying to figure out how all this fits with other conferences and they want athletic directors to handle logistics of determining if spring season is possible, sources said. The situation reportedly is changing by the hour, which is why the Big Ten has not made its announcement official.
Last week, the Big Ten revealed an updated 10-game conference-only schedule for 2020, and on Friday teams in the conference opened fall camp.
The limbo of the Big Ten schedule comes as players across the nation are opting out because of concerns about how the virus could impact their short- and long-term health. Four Michigan State players said they wouldn't play in 2020, and one team source said more players were expected to follow.
MSU linebacker Marcel Lewis, who opted out Saturday, said he lost a family member to the virus and doesn't want to risk play. Offensive tackle Justin Stevens, who also opted out Saturday, said he has a respiratory condition that could make him high risk. A number of other players around the Big Ten — including Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons and Purdue wideout Rondale Moore — also announced they would not play this season and begin preparation for the 2021 NFL draft.
Indiana offensive lineman Brady Feeney, whose is suffering from COVID-19-related heart issues and whose mother wrote an impassioned message imploring the college football world to take the virus seriously, took to Twitter on Monday morning with his own urging schools and players "to listen to our medical experts."
"Covid-19 is serious," Brady Feeney wrote. "I never thought that I would have serious health complications from this virus, but look at what happened."
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and one of the members of the group advising the NCAA on COVID-19, told the Free Press on Saturday a college football season no longer appeared feasible.
"When we were trying to think about ways to make it safe, we were at a time when there was kind of more control of the virus, and you've got less control of the virus now than we had several months earlier during when the stay at home orders were just starting to be lifted," Adalja said. "And then the other thing that's made it what made it much more difficult is football is a contact sport, which is going to require some amount of testing of players. The turnaround times for for outpatient testing are really unacceptable for being able to safely clear somebody to play.
"When you have this type of problem with testing, where it might take days to get a result back, it really makes it extremely challenging for this to occur."
Both MSU president Samuel Stanley (immunology and infectious diseases) and U-M president Mark Schlissel (immunology and internal medicine) are medical doctors.
Early Monday morning, players across the nation began uniting with the hashtag: 'WeWantToPlay.' Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds, who helped organize a unity statement among Big Ten players last week, told the Free Press early Monday morning that he hoped the movement "can save fall college sports in general."
"Obviously, you know there are gonna be risks with playing sports this fall, especially in the midst of COVID-19," Reynolds said. "But I think, as athletes, we feel that if the schools are unified and uniform in doing everything in their power to ensure our well-being and safety that that's a risk that a lot of people are willing to take."