By Barrett Sallee CBS Sports
The Big Ten announced Thursday that it will adopt a conference-only scheduling model for the 2020 college football season — if the season is played at all — stemming from concerns of playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the first Power Five conference to announce major alterations to its 2020 schedule.
“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,” the Big Ten announced. “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.”
The move to a conference-only scheduling model will eliminate several major nonconference Big Ten showdowns set for 2020, including Ohio State’s trip to Oregon in Week 2, the annual rivalry game between Iowa and Iowa State, and Michigan’s season opener at Washington.
It is unknown exactly how Big Ten programs will alter their schedules based on the league’s decision. The conference currently plays nine league games each season but could fill out its schedule with at least one additional intraleague contest.
The specific conference-only schedule that the Big Ten intends to play this fall — should sports be permitted to be played at all — will be announced at a later date.
With coronavirus continuing to rage across the United States and showing few signs of slowing down, moving to a conference-only schedule helps alleviate many issues the pandemic creates. Not only will teams be able to reduce long-distance travel, conferences will have an easier time implementing universal coronavirus testing standards.
It is unknown how other conferences intend to format their fall schedules. Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk, said Thursday that the SEC’s decision on a conference-only schedule could come at the end of July.
The Big Ten’s decision comes one day after Ohio State paused voluntary workouts due to COVID-19 testing results and the Ivy League announced that it will not hold intercollegiate sports in the fall but will reevaluate playing sports beginning Jan. 1, 2021.