Monday opened with reports the Big Ten Conference would not play football this fall because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the day closed with other reports a decision had been put off again.
Dan Patrick, a longtime anchor, reporter and radio host for ESPN, was first to report during his Monday morning radio show that Big Ten presidents voted 12-2 on Sunday to cancel the season, although a Big Ten official speaking on the condition of anonymity told the New York Times on Monday they had yet to vote on the issue.
Minnesota President Joan Gabel was expected to join other Big Ten presidents for a conference call Monday night, with multiple outlets saying no decision was expected immediately. Gabel was not available for interviews, her office said.
The Gophers estimate a $75 million loss to its athletic department if sports can’t be played this fall, a financial setback likely to have consequences beyond the coming school year. Total athletics spending in 2018-19 was $129 million.
Patrick said a source told him the Big Ten and Pac-12 will cancel their seasons, and the Detroit Free Press reported Monday that the Big Ten was set to make the announcement on Tuesday.
The Big Ten already had canceled nonconference games and last week announced a 10-game schedule that had the Gophers starting Sept. 5 at Michigan State. Minnesota was ranked No. 18 in the first USA Today coaches poll.
On Friday, the first day of Minnesota’s fall camp, coach P.J. Fleck announced that none of his players had tested positive for COVID-19. He did not comment on the season as his many of his colleagues did.
By Monday afternoon, Big Ten coaches Scott Frost of Nebraska, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State’s Ryan Day were speaking out in favor of playing — Frost going so far as to suggest the Cornhuskers could play in a different conference this season.
“We’re a proud member of the Big Ten,” Frost said during a Zoom teleconference with reporters. “We want to play a Big Ten schedule. I think the only reason we would look at any other options is if for some reason the Big Ten wasn’t playing and only a handful of teams from the Big Ten wanted to continue playing. I think if that’s the case, I think we’re prepared to look at any and all options.”
President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter, adding a hashtag made popular by college football players on Sunday night. “The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled (sic). #WeWantToPlay.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2020
On Monday, the Mountain West would become the second among 10 leagues that play at the highest tier of Division I college football to cancel fall sports because of concerns about keeping athletes from contracting and spreading COVID-19, Stadium reported. The Mid-American Conference became the first on Saturday.
The Power Five conference commissioners met Sunday to discuss growing concern about whether a college football season can be played in a pandemic. While many players took to social media to urge school leaders to let them play, Gophers receiver Rashod Bateman last week announced he would forego his junior season to start preparing for the 2021 draft.
According to the Associated Press, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said no decisions on the season have been made but conceded the outlook has not improved.
“Are we in a better place today than two weeks ago?” he said. “No, we’re not.”
Bowlsby cited “growing evidence and the growing pool of data around myocarditis.”
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart, and it has been found in some COVID-19 patients. There is concern it could be a long-term complication of contracting the virus even in young, healthy people, a group that has usually avoided severe cardiovascular symptoms.
One reason for rising concern in college circles was Friday’s death of former Florida State basketball player Michael Ojo, who recovered from COVID-19 but died of a heart attack at age 27 while training in Serbia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.