Major Universities Cancel Fall Football Seasons over Coronavirus

17 August 2020

Two major college football conferences recently canceled their fall seasons because of concerns over the new coronavirus.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 athletic conferences announced they would not have a fall football season and would also postpone other sports.

College football is a tradition in America and has millions of fans across the country. The two powerful conferences have valuable agreements to play games shown on television.

The move comes five months after the spread of coronavirus cases in the U.S. led to the cancellation of the men's and women's NCAA basketball tournaments. Other winter sports also had their seasons cut short and spring sports were canceled.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said of canceling the conference's football season: "This was an extremely difficult and painful decision that we know will have important impacts on our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and our fans."

Players, coaches and even U.S. President Donald Trump have asked that the season be held in some way. However, 40 percent of major college football teams have now decided to cancel the fall season.

The Big Ten and the Pac-12 conferences say the risk of trying to keep players from getting infected with and spreading the virus is too high. "Every life is critical," Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren told the AP.

FILE - Southern California quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) directs the school's band after a 52-35 win over UCLA in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
FILE - Southern California quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) directs the school's band after a 52-35 win over UCLA in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Many schools unsure about their seasons

The Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference are two other big college athletic groups. Both had expressed hopefulness about the fall season. Another conference, the Big 12, has still not released new plans. Together, the five athletic conferences are considered the biggest in the sport. It is unclear what they will do next.

Smaller athletic conferences also have difficult decisions to make. The American Athletic Conference, Conference USA and Sun Belt conference have not yet decided what to do about the fall sports season. The Mid-American and Mountain West conferences have suggested they may play football in the spring of 2021.

"Everyone is going to make their independent decisions and I certainly respect our colleagues," the Pac-12's Scott said.

The Big Ten said it was postponing all fall sports and hoping to make them up in the second semester. The Pac-12 said all sports would be postponed until January 1, including basketball.

Many college football players around the country were shocked by the cancellations. Many had recently taken to social media with the hashtag #WeWanttoPlay.

The move comes as some college players and activists have called on colleges to provide greater health and safety protections for players. They also call on colleges to directly pay student-athletes and permit a players association. Some of these demands have been announced by the group #WeAreUnited.

There had been hopes that the fall season could be played with fewer games and less travel. One week ago, the Big Ten had released an updated schedule involving only teams within the conference.

The Big Ten includes schools like The Ohio State University, the University of Michigan, the University of Nebraska and Penn State University. But the schools were not completely in agreement.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said he would have liked to have pushed back the season start from September 5 to early October.

Nebraska's president wrote that his school was "very disappointed" in the conference's decision.

Nebraska coach Scott Frost and Ohio State coach Ryan Day both suggested that if the Big Ten did not play their schools might look for games with other teams.

In the Pac-12, which includes schools like the University of Southern California and the University of Oregon, there seemed to be more agreement.

"We feel good about our decision," Oregon President Michael Schill said. "We would have made this decision independent of the Big Ten. We respect the institutions in the Big Ten. Many of them have the same values we have. We're pleased they are joining us."

The cost of losing football will be very hard on athletic departments. The Big Ten provided more than $50 million to most of its members in 2018. That money comes from media deals and a conference TV network supported by football.

The University of Wisconsin, a Big Ten member, has estimated it will lose $100 million without football. Michigan said it could lose more than that.

Some conferences are still hoping to play in the fall and others hoping to play in the spring. The result for the financially important sport could be two seasons – or none at all.

I'm Mario Ritter, Jr.

Ralph Russo reported this story for the Associated Press. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

impact –v. to have a big influence on something

colleague –n. a person you work with usually within the same kind of job or profession

schedule –n. a plan of when certain things will be done or events will be held in the future

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