It’s official.  Two more nails have been put in the coffin of NCAA football, with the Big Ten and the Pac-12 officially announcing it will cancel football activity this fall because of the coronavirus.  The decision impacts the conference’s football program, as well as field hockey, soccer and volleyball.

While the announcement indicates that the Big Ten is only “postponing” fall sports to the spring, it is highly unlikely that it will be able to stick to that plan.  It’s also highly unlikely that other football conferences, like the ACC, will attempt to buck the trend and push forward with their seasons.

Big Ten and Pac-12 Cancel Fall Football

The conference leaders got together today to determine how to approach the COVID-19 pandemic.  When the final decisions were reached, both the Big Ten and the Pac-12 reached the same conclusion – there’s no way to safely hold sports activity this fall so they much cancel football for the moment.  This doesn’t bode well for the other conferences, either.

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren knew the announcement would be received with a lot of disappointment, but the conference has taken a decision it feels is in the best interest of the players.  Warren said in a statement, “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.  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.”

The concerns aren’t just with the possibility of a player becoming infected with the virus; they also lie in the long-term effects COVID-19 might have on player health.  Recent reports indicate that some coronavirus victims suffer from myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart.  There have already been five Big Ten athletes diagnosed with myocarditis, and the consensus has been that it was a direct result of a coronavirus infection.

Other NCAA Leagues To Follow

The Ivy League had already called off its sports programs, followed by the Middle Atlantic Conference.  Individual schools, such as Michigan University and the University of Connecticut, had also made the decision to separately cancel their sports programs.  However, the Big Ten and Pac-12 are part of the “Power Five” group of leagues, and these are always seen as the standard to which all conferences are held.  With the Big Ten now out of the picture, it is expected that others will follow.

This means that the the ACC, the Big 12 and the SEC might also decide to cancel fall football and other sports.  The Pac-12 is expected to release its decision today or tomorrow, with most analysts predicting it will follow in their partners’ footsteps.  The others, however, have asserted that they want to run their seasons as planned.  The problem, though, is that they might not be able to get enough support from school boards of trustees and others – including insurance carriers – to justify their decision.

Spring Football In The Works?

Now they have decided to cancel football in the fall, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 want to hold football in the spring, but this is more than likely not going to happen.  There are too many variables and too many moving parts that would make holding basketball, football and some baseball at the same time.  The conferences have said that they are only putting off football to the spring; however, this could simply be an attempt to not announce that college football in the conferences is completely done until the 2021-22 season.

A number of schools have already said that they don’t agree with the decision, with a handful tossing around the idea of joining other conferences, such as the ACC or SEC, so football can move forward.  However, this may not be as easy as it sounds.

There are logistical issues that have to be considered, not to mention the broadcasting contracts in place that are controlled at the conference or the NCAA level.  Taking a Big Ten school and putting it into the ACC mix doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be able to see its games on the air, which means a huge financial expense without any revenue.

While football fans everywhere are quietly (and, in some cases, not so quietly) clinging onto hope that there will be college football of some sort this fall, it’s time to face the music.  This might be a very long year until next season begins.