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The Big Ten has decided to cancel all non-conference football games

COVID-19’s impact has extended to the promising 2020 Indiana football season.

The Big Ten decided on Thursday that it will have a conference-only season for the 2020 campaign.

The league’s decision impacts all other fall sports as well.

The news means that the following games on the Indiana schedule are canceled:

Sept. 12 – Western Kentucky
Sept. 19 – Ball State
Sept. 26 – at Connecticut

In a release, IU Director of Athletics Scott Dolson stated that safety was the driving force behind the league’s decision.

“Throughout this process, the health and safety of our students, coaches, staff and fans has been our number one priority, and I want to thank Commissioner (Kevin) Warren for his leadership as we navigate these unprecedented and challenging times,” Dolson said in a statement. “I also appreciate the tremendous support and patience that our fans continue to display as we map out the best path to be able to move forward safely. Along with my fellow Big Ten athletic directors, we know that there remain many questions that still need to be answered, and we will work toward finding those answers in the coming weeks.”

Part of the reason for cancelling the games is also no doubt financial.  Without fans in attendance, many of the nonconference contests are not economically viable.  Indiana would have had to pay Western Kentucky and Ball State to play in Bloomington in September.  IU has historically paid more than $1 million per year for so called guarantee games against non-power five nonconference opponents.

The cancellation of the early season games also gives the league and programs more time to monitor the pandemic, eliminate some long distance travel, and ensure consistent testing and policies as it relates to COVID-19.

According to some reports, the league is expected to play 10 games, meaning one additional contest should be added to the following remaining schedule.

Sept. 4 – at Wisconsin
Oct. 10 – Maryland
Oct. 17 – at Rutgers
Oct. 24 – Michigan State
Oct. 31 – Penn State
Nov. 7 – at Ohio State
Nov. 14 – Illinois
Nov. 21 – at Michigan
Nov. 28 – Purdue

It would be reasonable to expect based on what we know at this point that the date of the Wisconsin game will be moved back.

Since IU already plays all of the Big Ten East teams along with Purdue, Illinois and Wisconsin from the West, the tenth opponent is likely to be one of Iowa, Northwestern, Minnesota or Nebraska.  That contest would likely be on the road to balance out the number of home and away games.

The specifics on how the 2020 schedule will be adjusted will be provided in later in updates by the Big Ten and IU.

The full release this afternoon by the Big Ten follows.

Big Ten Statement on 2020-21 Fall Season

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.

To that end, the Big Ten Conference announced today that 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. 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.

This decision was made following many thoughtful conversations over several months between the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, Directors of Athletics, Conference Office staff, and medical experts including the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.

In addition, the Conference announced that summer athletic activities will continue to be voluntary in all sports currently permitted to engage in such activities. Furthermore, Big Ten student-athletes who choose not to participate in intercollegiate athletics at any time during the summer and/or the 2020-21 academic year due to concerns about COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarship honored by their institution and will remain in good standing with their team.

While Big Ten member institutions continue to rely on the most up-to-date medical information to establish the best protocols for voluntary workouts on their campuses, in compliance with local and state regulations, the Conference is working with the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee to finalize Conference-wide protocols.

As we continue to focus on how to play this season in a safe and responsible way, based on the best advice of medical experts, we are also prepared not to play in order to ensure the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes should the circumstances so dictate.

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