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Big Ten votes against college football season due to COVID concerns

The Big Ten presidents have voted against conducting a season in the fall, three people with knowledge of the decision confirmed to the Detroit Free Press.

The people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the decision. A formal announcement is expected on Tuesday, the people said.

The situation remains fluid as the details of what happens with a spring season remains unclear. 

Coming during a tense week of emergency conference meetings, the vote signals college football’s inability to grapple with the health and safety measures needed to combat the widespread transmission of the coronavirus while potentially leading to a domino effect of similar moves across the Power Five.

The Big Ten announced Wednesday its playing schedule for the fall with games planned for Labor Day weekend. Teams were practicing in anticipation of the start date, however the league Saturday said players could not wear pads and engage in full-contact activities.

The remaining four conferences in the Power Five have yet to announce any decisions regarding the coming season. It is expected the Pac-12 will follow the Big Ten in cancelling the season. 

As a sport, college football debuted with Princeton and Rutgers playing the first game in 1869 and had continued without interruption in every year since, competing through two world wars and even through another pandemic — while some schedules were cut back, a season was held during the flu pandemic of 1918.

The move comes nearly five months after the NCAA canceled the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, in one of the earliest signs that major sporting leagues and events would struggle to conduct business as usual amid a pandemic.

College football had eased back into normal activities during the months since. After the massive cancellation of offseason practices in March, coaches and players separated for much of the spring before returning to campuses in early June after the NCAA allowed voluntary team activities.

Those continued into August amid a number of warning signs. On a national scale, positive cases of COVID-19 spiked over the summer in many states housing multiple Bowl Subdivision programs, including Texas, Florida and California.

Meanwhile, large outbreaks of cases caused several programs to suspend team workouts entirely, leading every Power Five conference to announce altered regular-season schedules that largely eliminated non-conference play.

Concerns about potential cardiovascular issues for people contracting the virus also have become notable in recent days. The mother of Indiana player Brady Feeney posted on Facebook about complications of her son contracting the disease before he arrived on campus. Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez will not play this season because he developed myocarditis — a heart condition — after recovering from COVID-19.

Last weekend, the MAC became the first FBS conference to officially postpone competition until at least the spring, citing health concerns for its decision impacting all fall sports. 

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