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Big Ten, PAC-12 Pull The Plug On Fall Sports

What will the other power conferences do now?

The USC Trojans are among the schools seeking a prophylactic solution to football season amid a pandemic.
USPhoto by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

The Big Ten and the PAC-12 both moved Tuesday, as expected, to postpone all fall sports due to the Corona pandemic.

The other three Power Five conferences have yet to make a decision while the MAC and the Mountain West will hold off on sports for now. UConn has gone a step further and canceled football season although being UConn football, we’re not sure anyone will notice.

One of the main issues is a concern over myocarditis, or heart inflammation. The PAC-12’s medical advisory chair, Dr. Doug Aukerman says this: “There is some emerging data about some health risks that affect athletes, specifically cardiac side effects of COVID infections that we don’t know much about.”

Meanwhile in the ACC, Aukerman’s counterpart, Dr. Cameron Wolfe (is there a better ACC name possible? Is his middle name Deacon?) disagrees.

“We believe we can mitigate it down to a level that makes everyone safe. Can we safely have two teams meet on the field? I would say yes.

“You have to feel some level of comfortable playing in a non-zero risk environment. You can’t tell me that running onto a football field is supposed to be a zero-risk environment...Now the reality is we have to accept a little bit of COVID risk to be a part of that.”

The players, generally speaking although not universally, want to play, which is understandable. Of course they want to play.

There are a lot of moving parts here, not least of all liability which, we imagine, scares the crap out of the university presidents.

And of course money is a big issue that cuts both ways. The schools are losing a fortune if football doesn’t happen and could lose a lot in liability lawsuits if there is a serious problem or, God forbid, a death.

And the other side of that coin is this.

Football and basketball make money, yes, but they also drive up applications. We haven’t seen the figures but we are sure that the Zion and RJ show pushed Duke’s applications up. In an era when there is a decreasing pool of high school applicants, you can’t underestimate that.

You also can’t underestimate what would happen if a health disaster hit, say, Ohio State or worse Penn State, which still has the legacy of the Sandusky scandal hanging over it. There are plenty of other schools that have dealt with players in less than admirable ways, including Maryland, where DJ Durkin and Maryland were found partly responsible for the death of Jordan McNair in 2018.

We’re just spitballing here but we’re pretty sure Penn State and Maryland are not keen on another scandal anytime soon.

The most difficult part of this, other than perhaps fear of liability, is how little we still know about the virus and a lot of the information we get seems contradictory. All of that tends to compound into fear.

No one knows for sure how this will end but we’d like to think that, as Americans, we can be bold and defiant. We’re not advocating for football season. We don’t know nearly enough to do that and asking people to risk their health for your entertainment is just wrong.

We’d just like to find a way to work through this without the sense of fear and dread that hangs over us all and perhaps a bit more compassion all around.


You may have seen that Nebraska was considering playing regardless of the Big Ten’s decision. Well not so fast. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren - heck of a first year for him by the way - said they can’t play and be part of the Big Ten. So presumably that ends Nebraska’s proposed season of independence or whatever it would have been.


We saved this for the end because it’s frankly nearly obscene but on some level, particularly given the Machiavellian maneuvers of realignment, you have to think that the ACC, SEC and Big 12 have to be thinking man....we could have Saturday’s nearly to ourselves. Playing football with the Big Ten out of the picture and the PAC-12 giving up the Western market could hugely benefit anyone who decides to play (assuming they’re able to). Liability concerns will temper fevered imaginations but even so, there is a lucrative opportunity for those who try to play on. We’re not endorsing or recommending it, just stating the obvious. Nature abhors a vacuum.


Purely pragmatically, if the ACC, SEC and Big 12 play in the fall and the PAC-12 and Big Ten play in the spring, how do you manage the championship?