The Ohio Valley, part of the Football Championship Subdivision, said football programs would have to meet health and safety protocols to play nonconference contests. The conference part of the slate was postponed, along with the men's and women's cross country, women's soccer and women's volleyball seasons.
Fall action in men's and women's golf, men's and women's tennis, baseball and softball also was pushed back.
Published reports indicate the Ohio Valley is hopeful of conducting a seven-game football season in the spring.
"After careful deliberation, weighing all the factors as presented, and given the current uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the OVC Board of Presidents voted to postpone the Conference's fall sports to the spring," Ohio Valley commissioner Beth DeBauche said in a statement. "With the focus on student-athletes, the Conference leaders made this value-based decision with a commitment to continue to monitor the evolving situation and to strive to establish meaningful competitive opportunities in the spring for our fall sport student-athletes."
Most FCS programs schedule at least one road nonconference football game against a Football Bowl Subdivision program to bring in much-needed money.
Jacksonville State athletic director Greg Seitz indicated that his school will be seeking to schedule nonconference games.
"The overwhelming majority of our athletes want to compete this Fall," Seitz said in a statement. "While the OVC moved the conference schedule to the spring, the conference presidents voted today to permit conference schools to play up to four nonconference games. We are working diligently to provide our football team the opportunity to play an exciting and meaningful schedule this fall while maintaining the rigorous health protocols which were already established."
The Ohio Valley's decision means that all 13 FCS conferences have postponed their fall sports seasons, according to ESPN.
In addition to Jacksonville State, the Ohio Valley consists of Austin Peay, Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky, Murray State, Southeast Missouri, Tennessee-Martin, Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech.
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Ewers, who reportedly had Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State and Oklahoma among his finalists, is the top-rated incoming high school junior in the nation, per ESPN and 247Sports, with one analyst for the latter saying he may be slightly ahead in his development of where Clemson's Trevor Lawrence was through his sophomore season.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Southlake Carroll star announced his decision on Twitter, simply posting the word "COMMITTED!!" and images of him in high school and Longhorns uniforms.
According to 247Sports, Ewers completed 72 percent of his passes for 4,003 yards, 45 touchdowns and three interceptions as a sophomore. He also ran for 568 yards and nine touchdowns in leading his team to a 13-1 record and spot in the state quarterfinals, where their season ended with a 49-35 loss to Duncanville.
The last No. 1 overall recruit in the 247Sports composite to sign with Texas was quarterback Vince Young in 2002. Young threw for 6,040 yards, 44 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in three seasons with the Longhorns, adding 3,127 yards and 37 touchdowns rushing.
He led Texas to a 13-0 record and the national championship in the 2005 season, finishing second in the Heisman Trophy balloting to USC running back Reggie Bush -- who would later vacate the award during an investigation into whether Bush's family received improper benefits.
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The letter, directed at Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and the conference council of presidents and chancellors, was also delivered to Big Ten headquarters in Rosemont, Ill., on Friday.
In it, the parents are asking for transparency regarding the decision to postpone the fall sports calendar and setting a deadline of Aug. 19 for a response from the conference.
"The fact that the Big Ten and the Council of Presidents and Chancellors made this decision with no input from those actually assuming these risks is appalling. The lack of unity, strategic planning, leadership and communication are why we are in the position that we are currently in," reads part of the letter.
"The unwillingness to provide transparent health information and the perceived hypocrisy of allowing the players to be exposed to some long-term life altering risks, seems to be acceptable.
"Exposing the players to potential risk of COVID-19, risks they are already exposed to with the flu, is unacceptable to their school and conference to have this taken away from them in behind-closed-door meetings and still continue to expose them and all students and staff to the same risks is infuriating -- and sets a precedent that is completely unacceptable. The Big Ten's lack of communication and leadership is offensive," the letter reads, in part.
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Sawyer, from Pickerington, Ohio, said he's planning early enrollment in Columbus, citing "the uncertainty of this high school football season."
Sawyer made the announcement on Twitter.
"I have decided to focus on training and preparation for my early enrollment at Ohio State," he wrote. "I want to thank all of my coaches and teammates for their support throughout this difficult decision."
Sawyer, a 6-foot-5, 248-pound defensive end (Pickerington North), committed to the Buckeyes in February 2019.
He is the top-ranked recruit out of Ohio in the Class of 2021 and the third best in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.
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"They're all doing well," Schiano said during a video conference call with reporters, his first public remarks since the team shut down voluntary workouts on July 25.
"We don't know what we don't know, but we've done everything medically to make sure that they are safe. They all seem to be feeling well. Of those 30, probably half of them were asymptomatic. They never felt anything. They just tested positive. The other half had symptoms. ... I'm confident that we're doing well medically."
Schiano said all of the players who tested positive are receiving "a full cardiac workup" due to concerns about heart issues in athletes affected by the coronavirus. Several staff members also reportedly tested positive.
Schiano, 54, rejoined the Scarlet Knights on Dec. 1, signing an eight-year, $32 million contract. He had previously coached the school from 2001-11 before serving as head coach of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012-13) and associate head coach and defensive coordinator at Ohio State (2016-18).
The Big Ten announced earlier this week that it was postponing fall sports to spring 2021.
Schiano replaced Chris Ash, who compiled an 8-32 record at Rutgers from 2016-19.
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Gadsden police are calling the incident an accidental shooting. It remains under investigation, Sgt. Marcus Hill told WBRC Channel 6.
Merrick died at UAB Hospital in Birmingham.
Earlier Friday, Blazers head coach Bill Clark had released a statement asking for prayers for Merrick and his family.
"Please pray for the family of Allen Merrick, a young man who joined our UAB Football Family this season. Allen was visiting home in Gadsden yesterday when he suffered a gunshot wound," Clark said. "He is at UAB Hospital where I've been with Allen's family, but I do not have a condition I can share at this time. I ask that everyone please respect his family's privacy and keep them all in your prayers."
Merrick was a three-star recruit in the Class of 2020 from Gadsden City High School.
He is the second UAB football player to die this offseason. Frehman safety Jamari Smith, 18, drowned in a lake in Alabama in May.
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As it stands, FIU will now begin its season Sept. 26 at Liberty. The school will have to cancel or reschedule its first two games with Jacksonville State (home opener on Sept. 3) and UCF (Sept. 12).
"The health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff are our top priority," FIU president Mark Rosenberg said in a statement. "With this in mind, and based on input from our FIU healthcare experts, the informed science surrounding COVID-19 and the current circumstances in our South Florida community, FIU will postpone all intercollegiate competitions through September 16. We are making this decision in an abundance of caution."
Conference USA is planning to play an eight-game conference schedule with up to four non-conference games. However, member Old Dominion has decided to cancel its football season and Rice has postponed its season until Sept. 26.
FIU was originally scheduled to play at Old Dominion on Sept. 19. FIU's game with UMass (Oct. 24) was canceled when the Amherst university canceled its fall sports season last week.
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The Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 are in alignment with the Southeastern Conference with plans to play this fall, while the Big Ten and Pac-12 are opting for the spring.
"We don't know right now what the season will bring, but as a committee, we are ready to use the protocol and the expertise of the 13 people who have been charged with selecting the teams," said Iowa athletic director Gary Barta, who is beginning his first year as committee chair.
"The committee's task is to rank the teams based on what happens on the field. This week gave us a great chance to catch up with the familiar faces and welcome our three new members to the process. If the board and management committee say we are having a CFP, we will be ready."
The final selection committee rankings of the 2020 season is slated to be released on Dec. 20. The committee will also announce the matchups for the semifinals at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, as well as the other New Year's Six bowl pairings.
The College Football Playoff on Thursday announced recusals for 10 of its 13 selection committee members. However, four of them have asterisks by their names because their affiliated schools aren't playing in the fall.
The recusal policy remains the same as it has the past six years.
"A recused member is permitted to answer only factual questions about the institution from which the member is recused but shall not be present during any deliberations regarding that team's selection or seeding," the policy states.
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Football, volleyball, women's soccer and cross country are the sports affected by the decision, prompted by health and safety concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
"After thoughtful consideration, the Southland Conference Board of Directors reached consensus in postponing league competition for our fall semester sports," Central Arkansas president Houston Davis, the board chairman, said in a statement. "Protecting competitive opportunities in a safe manner for our student-athletes was paramount in the review, and a delay to the spring allows campuses and athletic departments to get a better handle on issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Some of the Southland's 13 members, who compete at the FCS level in football, said they planned to move ahead with limited schedules this fall.
Central Arkansas athletic director Brad Teague told ESPN the Bears intend to play their scheduled Aug. 29 opener against Austin Peay.
Houston Baptist said it will honor existing contracts for non-conference games against North Texas, Texas Tech and Louisiana Tech.
The other members of the Southland are Abilene Christian, University of the Incarnate Word, Lamar, McNeese, New Orleans, Nicholls State, Northwestern State, Sam Houston State, Southeastern Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin State and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
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His plan calls for the regular season to end on April 17 and postseason play to wrap up by May 15.
When the Big Ten announced the postponement of fall sports on Tuesday due to the coronavirus, Brohm told ESPN he channeled his disappointment into crafting a new calendar.
"When it got canceled, it was heartbreaking," he said. "You feel for guys that have worked their whole lives to get a chance to play football, and now they don't have that. It made me angry, and it made me want to just do something about it. That's why I put this together."
His plans also include an abbreviated schedule for the fall of 2021 that would include 10 games starting on Oct. 2, following a four-week training camp. Both the spring 2021 and fall 2021 plans include playoff options with four or six teams.
Brohm, 49, who has coached the Boilermakers since 2017, said he made the safety of student-athletes a priority.
His proposal would reduce padded, full-contact practices over the two-year span from 114 to 52 for teams not participating in bowl games, and from 144 to 64 for teams that play in bowl games. During the season, teams would be allowed only one padded practice per week. The calendar includes a three-month layoff after the spring season.
"To me, taking care of the body and the collegiate athlete is the most important thing," Brohm told ESPN. "I just wanted to prove that there are ways to get that done and still be able to allow football to be played this [school] year at some point."
Brohm said he will share his plan with "anybody who wants to look at it."
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"It has been shown to myself and the rest, that our leadership is based off an 'I' mentality with them only worried about their own future rather than their own athletes," Thompson said in an open letter to the "Seminole Family" on his Twitter page. He also posted to Instagram.
"... The lies from our leaders have backed myself into (a) corner putting my overall well being in jeopardy. The neglect to respond to this issue is very concerning and why I've (drawn) attention to it."
Thompson, a redshirt sophomore from Seffner, Fla., said he had been lied to "multiple times" about the conditions of other players' health, and his own. He said he was "ridiculed" for his concerns.
Citing privacy laws, Florida State has not released specific numbers about how many players have tested positive for the coronavirus.
On Wednesday night, senior wideout D.J. Matthews tweeted, and later deleted, that he had tested positive. Matthews and FSU star receiver Tamorrion Terry both retweeted Thompson's message, adding exclamation points.
First-year Seminoles coach Mike Norvell told reporters during a regularly scheduled Zoom session Thursday he was disappointed by Matthews' remarks.
"It's obviously disappointing to see what was said," Norvell said, per the Tampa Bay Times. "We've been very open and transparent throughout this process."
At least two Florida State players -- junior defensive back Asante Samuel Jr. and senior defensive tackle Marvin Wilson -- defended the program on social media on Thursday.
"I feel safe coming to practice everyday because of the protocols FSU has in place !!!" Samuel tweeted.
"I feel safe with what @FSUFootball is doing for us through this pandemic and keeping us safe," Wilson posted on Twitter. "Let's play some football."
Florida State is scheduled to kick off the ACC season on Sept. 12 against Georgia Tech in Tallahassee.
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"The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a fully committed member of the Big Ten Conference. It is an unparalleled athletic and academic alliance," read a joint statement issued by university chancellor Ronnie Green and president Ted Carter.
"We have the greatest fans in college athletics. This has been a difficult and disappointing week for the Husker family. We all look forward to the day when we can cheer on our student-athletes, on the field and in the arena."
The Big Ten voted Tuesday to postpone all fall sports due to ongoing health and safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nebraska officials initially said they were "disappointed in the decision" and weren't ready to abandon the hope of playing football in the fall instead of the spring.
"We will continue to consult with medical experts and evaluate the situation as it emerges. We hope that it may be possible for our student athletes to have the opportunity to compete," read a joint statement Tuesday from Green, athletic director Bill Moos and football coach Scott Frost.
On Wednesday night, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren told ESPN that members playing outside the conference was not a viable option.
"We have 14 schools in the Big Ten conference. I appreciate the passion of all of our schools. I didn't expect all of our coaches to be ecstatic that the decision was made, so I understand they're passionate, and as I sit here right now, that's what I'm going to conclude -- they're passionate people," Warren said. "My expectation is that when you're in a conference, you can't be in a conference and be an independent. That's where we are. I expect for our 14 members to go forward together."
The conference holds all of the Cornhuskers' media rights. The league earned $781.5 million in the most recent fiscal year, per USA Today, with Nebraska earning a $55.6 million payout.
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Day, speaking one day after the Big Ten postponed the fall football season, said the planning process for a spring season must begin now. He said he believes the Big Ten could begin play in early January, schedule eight or nine games, entertain possible postseason play, and wrap it all up before the NFL draft.
"It's got to be weeks. It can't be months. We've got to start it as soon as we can," Day said.
Day also wants current NFL prospects, like Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields, to play the spring season. He also wants incoming recruits who enroll midyear to be eligible for the spring 2021 season.
"I'm sure there will be a lot of back-and-forth here, but ... starting the first week of January would be the best week to go, an eight-week season. That way there is some separation between that season and the next season," Day said. "We get some midyear guys to come in and possibly play a two-for-one, they'd get two seasons in in one calendar year, which I think the recruits would be really excited about. That's the focus right now."
Day also said he spoke to OSU athletic director Gene Smith earlier Wednesday about any possibilities of playing this fall.
"We are looking at everything, I promise you that."
Smith, however, said OSU is no longer looking at options that include fall competition.
"It wasn't realistic," Smith told ESPN. "We just embraced the spring. That's what we're doing.
"There's not a fall option," he added. "We're all about the spring and how do we set that up."
Ohio State was 13-1 in 2019, and won a third straight Big Ten championship, becoming the first program in conference history to do so outright. Day, entering his second season as the OSU head coach, tied the record for most wins for a first-year FBS head coach last season.
Day, who also subbed in for head coach Urban Meyer for three games in 2018 and is 16-1 overall in Columbus, said the forfeiture of the 2020 season hit him hard.
"You work your whole life for an opportunity to coach a team like this," he said. "This team is special.
"It could have been a once-in-a-lifetime team."
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While the delay applies to men's and women's cross country, football, men's and women's soccer and volleyball, football programs will be allowed to schedule as many as four nonconference games this fall at their discretion.
The Big South football members voted on that condition.
"We are all brokenhearted that we will not be able to provide competitive opportunities for Big South student-athletes this fall," commissioner Kyle Kallander said. "However, the path forward must protect the health and safety of our student-athletes, and some of the current trends and unknowns with COVID-19 have made that a huge challenge. Our intention is to shift these fall seasons to the spring as we would like nothing more than to crown Big South champions in all 19 of our sports this year."
Big South schools also many continue with athletic training as permitted by the NCAA.
At least one team intends to try to play the four non-conference games. That's North Alabama, which as of Monday afternoon had four games listed on the schedule on the school website: at Western Illinois (Sept. 3), Jacksonville State (Sept. 13), at Tennessee-Chattanooga (Sept. 19) and at BYU (Nov. 21).
"Our plan is to look at all of our options and hopefully have the chance to play a full slate of games, combining the fall and spring," said Mark Linder, athletic director at North Alabama. "One of the biggest concerns of our players is not having the opportunity to play a full schedule. This plan provides the ultimate flexibility, to play four non-conference games in the fall and the Big South schedule in the spring."
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The schedule culminates with the Dr. Pepper Big 12 Championship game, to be played Dec. 12 or Dec. 19.
Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Wednesday the conference included at least two players from every team in the health and safety discussions surrounding competing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Bowlsby said he expects greater clarity on the season as a whole next week when the College Football Playoff committee meets.
"It will be a while into season before all of this is resolved. No obvious reason why it couldn't work," Bowlsby said of a season-ending playoff.
The Big 12 met Tuesday and confirmed it would move forward with plans to play the 2020 college football season. The move was not unanimous, according to Baylor officials, and came on the same day the Big Ten and Pac-12 postponed their football seasons with a goal of playing in the spring.
The Big 12 will test players for the virus three days each week, Bowlsby said.
The next big question for Big 12 schools is whether to permit fans in the stadium on game day. Bowlsby said each institution will make the decision on stadium capacity under guidelines from state and local government.
"Fans of college football are a huge part of game day. I think we all agree that we're not going to have full stadiums," Bowlsby said.
Texas and Oklahoma are scheduled to play at the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 10.
The first week confirmed on the schedule is Sept. 26 and includes all conference games. All nonconference games are to be announced by each member institution and are required to be played before Sept. 26.
Each team will have a minimum of two bye dates and potentially a third bye late in the season.
"I had been very hopeful that the Big 12 would come to this decision," Texas coach Tom Herman said. "Our guys are really excited.
"We understand all of the health and safety challenges and appreciate everything our medical team is doing here, but probably the worst thing about all of this has been the uncertainty. It has been very hard on our players mentally, and they've done a great job fighting through it.
"When the conference comes out and says, ‘We're committed to finding every way possible that we can play this season,' I think that gives them a lot of pride, and it gives them a lot of confidence that, if they come out here and do what they're supposed to do, they're going to get to play this great game that they love."
Reports that Nebraska -- which hopes to play despite the Big Ten's decision -- would be included in the Big 12 conference schedule were unfounded. The Cornhuskers are not listed on any team's schedule released Wednesday. Bowlsby said Nebraska hadn't reached out to the league as of Wednesday.
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Cornhuskers head coach Scott Frost repeated his opinion that college football should be played in 2020, counter to the conference announcement that it would not play the season in the fall as scheduled.
"We will continue to consult with medical experts and evaluate the situation as it emerges," Frost, Nebraska president Ted Carter and chancellor Ronnie Green said in a joint statement Tuesday. "We hope it may be possible for our student athletes to have the opportunity to compete."
Options could include participating with other conferences that have yet to postpone, including the Big 12, where Nebraska was once a member.
"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," Frost said Monday. "I think if that's the case, I think we're prepared to look at any and all options."
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said on Tuesday after the announcement the league had postponed fall sports that he hopes all 14 member institutions would stick together. Dan Patrick reported on his radio show Monday that Nebraska and Iowa were dissenting in a 12-2 vote on delaying the 2020 season.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was against the Big Ten's decision to delay the season until the spring. Harbaugh said in a statement on Tuesday that the Wolverines still want to compete.
"Our student-athletes and coaches want to compete," Harbaugh said. "They have committed, trained and prepared their entire lives for this opportunity, and I know how much they're disappointed at this time. I share in their disappointment today.
"We have shown over the weeks since returning to campus that we could meet the challenge and provide our student-athletes the opportunity of a fall football season. Our football team, our coaching staff, our support staff in Schembechler Hall have all stepped up, followed every rule, and done everything in their power magnificently to give all the opportunity to compete. I am extremely proud, thankful and appreciative of our team and how they have conducted and represented our program and university."
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said Monday he planned to "continue to fight" for his players.
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The conference said its Pac-12 CEO Group voted unanimously in favor of the postponement. The decision was made in consultation with the league's COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee and conference athletic directors.
"The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our number one priority since the start of this current crisis," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. "Our student-athletes, fans, staff and all those who love college sports would like to have seen the season played this calendar year as originally planned, and we know how disappointing this is."
The Pac-12 said it will consider playing sports after Jan. 1 if conditions improve. That would include an attempt to play the football season in the spring. The basketball season also won't start on time in November.
The Pac-12's announcement came not long after the Big Ten announced the cancellation of football and all fall sports.
The Pac-12 decision-makers were on the same page in terms of what is best for the schools after hearing the medical reports and studying the science.
"All of the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors understand the importance of this decision, and the disappointment it will create for our student-athletes, the coaches, support staff and all of our fans," said Michael H. Schill, president of the University of Oregon. "Ultimately, our decision was guided by science and a deep commitment to the health and welfare of student-athletes. We certainly hope that the Pac-12 will be able to return to competition in the New Year."
Scott noted that college sports operate differently from professional sports, and can't be compared to a league like the NBA, which can isolate its players and coaches in a "bubble" environment.
"Unlike professional sports, college sports cannot operate in a bubble," he said. "Our athletic programs are a part of broader campuses in communities where in many cases the prevalence of COVID-19 is significant. We will continue to monitor the situation and when conditions change we will be ready to explore all options to play the impacted sports in the new calendar year."
The decision to postpone also comes just 11 days after the Pac-12 approved a 10-game conference-only schedule that was to begin on Sept. 26.
But Utah coach Kyle Whittingham always felt like that could change.
"We've known for some time that this was a possibility," Whittingham said in a statement about the postponement. "However, it is still disappointing news for our program, our fans and especially for our student-athletes.
"We respect the guidance of the Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee and the decision made today by the Pac-12 CEO Group, and we will continue to put our focus on our players' academics and their development. Our number one priority is always the well-being of our players and their health and safety comes first."
Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir said there are too many unknowns about potential long-term health implications, even for college-age people who are less prone to contract COVID-19.
"The logistical challenges of adhering to the current safety protocols and best practices when traveling and competing against others are still too great to overcome," Muir said in a statement. "Today's decision is disappointing for many people, but none more so than our student-athletes, who have worked so hard for so many years to reach this point in their athletics pursuits. I remain hopeful that we will find a way to create an opportunity for them to compete safely in the winter or spring."
Southern California athletic director Mike Bohn said the presentations made it clear to him that there was no way to move forward with a season.
"In listening to our Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee present the latest data over the past few days, it became abundantly clear that, despite our gargantuan efforts locally and as a conference, there is too much uncertainty to move forward with athletics, practices and competitions at this time," Bohn said in a statement.
Two other Football Bowl Subdivision conferences, the Mid-American and Mountain West, previously announced the postponement of football.
Independents Connecticut and Massachusetts as well as Old Dominion of Conference USA also won't play football this fall.
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All fall sports are included in the move. The 10-game conference-only football schedule was slated to begin Sept. 3.
"The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward," Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. "As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.
"Although that knowledge made this a painstaking decision, it did not make it difficult. ... Everyone associated with the Big Ten Conference and its member institutions is committed to getting everyone back to competition as soon as it is safe to do so."
In a statement, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said the decision "is the correct one."
"There is simply too much unknown risk for us to proceed with the confidence we need to launch our sports seasons," Alvarez said. "There is no way to preserve physical distancing during competition and masking can make competition very difficult. As a result, playing the fall season would pose risks that we think are not acceptable for our student-athletes and our athletic staff."
Nebraska officials said they were "disappointed in the decision" and weren't ready to abandon the possibility of playing football this fall.
"We will continue to consult with medical experts and evaluate the situation as it emerges. We hope that it may be possible for our student athletes to have the opportunity to compete," read a joint statement from university chancellor Ronnie Green, athletic director Bill Moos and Cornhuskers head coach Scott Frost.
The move comes amid concern that a rare heart condition could result from players contracting the coronavirus. Five Big Ten players have reportedly been found to have myocarditis, which is inflammation of tissue in the heart.
Usually the result of a viral infection, complications of myocarditis include heart damage and possibly fatal heart attacks.
The Big Ten becomes the third conference -- but first Power 5 league -- to postpone or outright cancel the football season, joining the MAC and Mountain West.
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Other entities such as the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 appear to be in alignment with the SEC, with plans to play this fall despite decisions from other conferences such as the Big Ten and Pac-12 to suspend play until at least the spring.
Sankey said in an appearance on "The Dan Patrick Show" on Tuesday morning that it's unlikely the SEC would play a season on its own should the other Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences cancel the fall season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"I don't think that's the right direction, really," Sankey said, when asked if the SEC would be comfortable as the only conference playing football this fall.
"Could we? Certainly. There's a difference between can you do something and should you do something in life. We've actually set up our schedule with our own health protocols; we could, if that's the circumstance, operate on our own. I'm not sure that's the wisest direction."
After the Big Ten and Pac-12 both announced the postponement of the 2020 fall football season on Tuesday afternoon, the SEC released a statement from Sankey.
"I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 leadership to take these actions today. I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 members are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes," Sankey said in the statement.
"We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day."
The ACC plans to review the Pac-12's decision during a conference call among university presidents on Wednesday, according to reports, but as of now the plan is for its schools to compete on the gridiron this fall.
"We are pleased with the protocols being administrated on our 15 campuses," the ACC said in a statement. "We will continue to follow our process that has been in place for months and has served us well. We understand the need to stay flexible and be prepared to adjust as medical information and the landscape evolves."
On Monday, the 12-team Mountain West joined the 12-team Mid-American Conference as other FBS leagues that have postponed their football season and fall sports.
Independents Connecticut and Massachusetts as well as Old Dominion of the Conference USA also have opted out of the fall football season.
Earlier Tuesday, Sankey dismissed reports that the SEC is considering adding programs from other conference that might cancel fall football.
"There are probably any number of legal, contractual, media -- I could go down the list of reasons that that's not quite practical," Sankey said.
Sankey also noted that the conference's medical advisory group remains comfortable with the safety of current summer workout plans.
"Were that advice to change, it certainly would be a stopping point," he said. "The indicators are we can right now do what we're doing in a healthy way."
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The 5-foot-10 senior from Papillion, Neb., made the announcement Tuesday on social media.
"Please respect my decision. ... I gave my blood, sweat, and tears to the program and wish nothing but the best to my coaches, brothers and the community of Brookings," tweeted Johnson, one of a handful of players from the FCS level who are on NFL radars for the 2021 draft.
The Jackrabbits play in the Missouri Valley Conference, which announced last week it was postponing its football season to the spring.
Johnson told the Omaha World-Herald he hopes to play his final season with a school in one of the high-profile FBS conferences -- if those conferences delay football to the spring. If those conferences stick with a fall season, however, he said he would complete his coursework at South Dakota State and reevaluate his options for the spring.
A 2019 All-American at the FCS level, Johnson caught 72 passes for 1,222 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He had 67 receptions for 1,332 yards and a school-record 17 touchdowns in 2018.
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Brown said he is hopeful the 2020 season can be played but admitted the conference would be in a pickle if multiple other leagues opt to shift the season to later in the fall or next spring.
"I don't see leagues playing by themselves. If you see three or four saying, 'We don't think it's healthy,' then why would we do it?" Brown said Tuesday in a Zoom call with reporters.
However, the chair of the ACC's medical advisory team told Sports Business Daily that a season could be played safely.
"We believe we can mitigate it down to a level that makes everyone safe," Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a Duke infectious disease specialist, told SBD. "Can we safely have two teams meet on the field? I would say yes. Will it be tough? Yes. Will it be expensive and hard and lots of work? For sure. But I do believe you can sufficiently mitigate the risk of bringing COVID onto the football field or into the training room at a level that's no different than living as a student on campus."
Big Ten officials are reportedly contemplating postponing the season until the spring and the Pac-12 is expected to follow suit. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Monday he wouldn't rush to make any decision with the start of the 2020 regular season already delayed.
Brown said all options, including pushing the start of the season back again, should be considered equally.
"One thing the players have probably done is by saying, 'We want to play,' then what people might do is slow down because we're learning more about the virus every day, and let's wait and look at every possible option since they want to play," Brown said. "I think that's what everybody is looking at right now; let's take a deep breath, let's make sure they're safe and then let's look at options. Is it safe to start when we want to? Do we move it back a little bit, or do we move to spring? We're so splintered; it seems to me we'd all be better if we were on the same page, but hopefully we're getting there."
North Carolina has not had a positive COVID-19 test in more than a month, a number that supports the sentiment of high-profile coaches Jim Harbaugh (Michigan) and Ryan Day (Ohio State) who are arguing that players are safer on campus.
Of recent myocarditis (swelling of the heart) concerns related to COVID-19 cases, Brown noted any positive coronavirus tests result in players being sent for a complete EKG and heart checkup after quarantine before they can be cleared to practice.
Wolfe told SBD that the ACC -- or any conference -- would need to accept a level of risk.
"You have to feel some level of comfortable playing in a non-zero risk environment," Wolfe told SBD. "You can't tell me that running onto a football field is supposed to be a zero-risk environment. Look at all of the regular sporting injuries that we accept as a certain level of risk as part and parcel of football. Now the reality is that we have to accept a little bit of COVID risk to be a part of that."
--Field Level Media
College football writer Pete Thamel said Pac-12 coaches and ADs got a sobering medical perspective from a group of Pac-12 doctors last night. Source called it "eye opening" and the information on myocarditis "made it real." The doctors also expressed concern about proximity that comes with full-contact practice. "It's all in the presidents' hands," Thamel wrote, citing a source.
Myocarditis is swelling of the heart and surrounding tissue.
Dr. Matthew Martinez, who is the lead cardiologist for Major League Soccer, said that cardiac inflammation is being found in athletes that are asymptomatic for COVID-19.
"Initially we thought if you didn't have significant symptoms that you are probably at less risk. We are now finding that that may not be true," he told ESPN.
The heart issue connected to COVID-19 was cited by Northern Illinois University last week when the Mid-American Conference determined it would vote to postpone the 2020 football season.
"What we don't know was really haunting us, and that's why we came to our final decision," Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier said. "That's part of the data that our presidents used. This mom gave us a play-by-play. That stuff is extremely scary."
ESPN reported on Monday that myocarditis was the primary reason Power 5 conferences are debating whether to play football in the fall as scheduled.
Per the report, myocarditis has been found in at least five Big Ten Conference athletes and among several other athletes in other conferences, according to two sources with knowledge of athletes' medical care.
Debbie Rucker, the mother of Indiana offensive lineman Brady Feeney, wrote on social media that her son was dealing with potential heart problems after battling COVID-19.
--Field Level Media
UMass is an FBS independent.
"The continuing challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic posed too great of a risk, and we reached the conclusion that attempting to play a season would not have placed the members of our program in the safest situation possible," Minutemen athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement.
UMass players were informed of the decision Tuesday morning.
"I am absolutely heartbroken for our players, our former players, our alumni and our UMass Football community," UMass coach Walt Bell said in a statement. "Our job as coaches and mentors is to provide opportunities for our players, and do everything in our power to not take them away. Today's news was devastating, but we will be resilient and prepared to be our best when our best is required."
UMass joins UConn as the second FBS independent to cancel its season. The Mid-American and Mountain West conferences have canceled their seasons as well.
--Field Level Media
ESPN reported Sunday that a majority of Big Ten presidents are in favor postponing the upcoming fall sports seasons. Nebraska's president evidently was not one of them ... at least not when it comes to football.
"I know where our university president stands, and he wants to play," Nebraska head football coach Scott Frost said Monday.
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day suggested on Twitter that he wants his team to play as well, writing: "Swinging as hard as we possibly can right now for these players!! This isn't over! #FIGHT"
Day added, according to ESPN, "We cannot cancel the season right now. We have to at the least postpone it and give us some time to keep reevaluating everything that is going on. ... Let's do everything we can. We owe it to these kids to exhaust every possible option and go from there."
Penn State head coach James Franklin expressed a similar sentiment, tweeting, "I love our players & believe it is my responsibility to help them chase their dreams, both collectively & individually. I am willing to fight WITH them & for our program!"
Frost said during a video conference call with reporters, "We're a proud member of the Big Ten. 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."
Nebraska is estimating that it would lose between $80 million and $120 million if there is no season, although even if the Cornhuskers do play, there is no indication how many paying fans would be admitted into stadiums, if they are allowed to attend at all.
"If we send kids home, they're going to be in closer contact with a lot of family members and other people that might be at higher risk for coronavirus than if we keep them here in an environment where they're around other healthy, young people," Frost said. "If I had a son, I would want him playing football. I think this is the safest place he could be, and a lot of schools around the conference probably feel the same way."
--Field Level Media
The Mountain West Board of Directors said the decision was due to "ongoing challenges with the effective mitigation and management of the COVID-19 virus in conjunction with athletic competition."
"Since the start of the pandemic, our membership and staff have been working diligently to prepare for a fall sports season," Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. "We were hopeful we could carefully and responsibly conduct competition as originally scheduled with essential protocols in place.
"However, numerous external factors and unknowns outside our control made this difficult decision necessary. I fully understand the impact of this outcome on our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and staff who work so hard daily to play the sports we all love, and I share in their disappointment. We will continue to navigate this pandemic together, overcome the obstacles and return to intercollegiate athletics at the earliest opportunity."
The 12-team Mountain West joins the 12-team Mid-American Conference as Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) leagues that have postponed their football season and fall sports.
Counting independent Connecticut and Old Dominion of Conference USA -- the latter announced Monday it was postponing football and fall sports -- 26 FBS programs have opted out of the fall football season.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 could announce they won't be conducting football seasons on Tuesday, according to multiple reports.
The Mountain West said it will study rescheduling the different sports -- such as volleyball and soccer -- in the spring. The league said training activities will be evaluated as well to ensure they are consistent with NCAA legislation and guidance and state, local and campus parameters.
"Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our students, student-athletes, coaches, faculty, staff and overall communities," said Board Chairman Dr. Mary Papazian, the president of San Jose State. "Through the hard work of many over the past several months, the conference made every effort to create an opportunity for our student-athletes to compete, and we empathize with the disappointment this creates for everyone associated with our programs. The best interests of our students and student-athletes remain our focus and we will persist in our efforts to forge a viable and responsible path forward."
UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois released a statement saying her university supports the decision.
"The health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and our entire community that supports them is our top priority and as it stands today, the conference determined that a safe enough path forward for competition could not be found," Reed-Francois said.
San Diego State football coach Brady Hoke also said the decision was the right move.
"Although today is a difficult day, we know that we are making changes to the schedule for the safety and health of the players, and that is always the right thing to do," Hoke said. "I am very disappointed for our student-athletes. They were excited in their commitment and preparation for the upcoming season. Now we are going to have to readjust."
In addition to San Diego State and UNLV, the other football members of the Mountain West are Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, San Jose State, Utah State and Wyoming.
--Field Level Media