Big Ten to play only conference games in fall

Teams in the fall sports in the Big Ten, including football, will play a conference-only schedule in 2020, the league announced Thursday afternoon.The decision was made to allow “flexibility” as the coronavirus pandemic continues in the United States.”We are facing uncertain and unprecedented times, and the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, game officials, and others associated with our sports programs and campuses remain our number one priority,” the Big Ten said in a statement.”If the Conference is able to participate in fall sports (men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball) based on medical advice, it will move to Conference-only schedules in those sports,” the statement continued. “Details for these sports will be released at a later date, while decisions on sports not listed above will continue to be evaluated. 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 is the first FBS conference to announce only intraconference games. The Ivy League, whose football programs compete at the FCS level, announced Wednesday that no sports would be played before Jan. 1.Stadium’s Brett McMurphy reported that the Atlantic Coast Conference is expected to follow suit and play conference-only games. He said that last month, commissioner John Swofford told Stadium the ACC would help independent program Notre Dame find opponents. The Fighting Irish compete in the ACC in men’s and women’s basketball.The Athletic reported that the Pac-12 Conference also would announce a league-only schedule in “the coming days.”The Big Ten weighed input from campus chancellors and presidents, athletic directors, conference staff and medical experts in making the decision. Medical officials consulted include the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.In its statement, the conference said officials will continue to monitor the pandemic and halt play if necessary.