On the heels of the Ivy League implementing a moratorium on all athletics until January in response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases across the United States, the Big Ten has announced that they will eliminate non-conference matchups for all fall 2020 sports seasons and limit their member teams to conference-only schedules.
Why cancel the non-conference matchups? Likely to reduce the need for air travel as teams often have to fly to face non-conference opponents based outside their region, which would increase their chances of being exposed to COVID-19. In theory, games against other Big Ten opponents should allow teams to only have to travel by bus, which would seem to present less risk.
The unprecedented decision will remove home football games against Florida Atlantic, Tennessee Tech, and BYU from the Gophers’ fall slate. Instead, Minnesota would open the season against Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 18, at TCF Bank Stadium. But there are rumors that the Big Ten is considering shifting to a 10-game conference schedule, so that could change.
I am curious to see what the financial impact will be from losing three homes games. It would certainly represent a loss of revenue, although whether fans would have even been allowed to attend those games is questionable. But will Minnesota be able to withdraw from the contracts for those games without having to pay a penalty?
At this point I can’t say I have much confidence that we’ll see any college football played this fall. This may be the Big Ten’s first move in trying to hold a season while also limiting the risk of exposing student-athletes, coaches, and staff to COVID-19, but I suspect it will not be their last as the start of the season draws closer and the obstacles become more defined.
The possibility of no college football in 2020 is very real, and I am as depressed at having to to type those words as you probably are at having to read them.