MADISON - A crumbling college football season took a massive hit Tuesday as the Big Ten and Pac-12, two historic and powerful conferences, succumbed to the pandemic and canceled their fall football seasons.
Five months almost to the day after the first spikes in coronavirus cases in the U.S. led to the cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournaments, the still raging pandemic is tearing down another American sports institution: fall Saturdays filled with college football.
"This was an extremely difficult and painful decision that we know will have important impacts on our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and our fans,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. “We know nothing will ease that.”
Despite pleas from players, coaches and President Donald Trump in recent days to play on, 40% of major college football teams have now decided to punt on a fall season, a decision that will cost schools tens of millions of dollars and upends traditions dating back a century.
Both conferences cited the risk of trying to keep players from contracting and spreading the coronavirus when the programs are not operating in a bubble like the NBA and NHL are doing. They also cited the broader state of the pandemic in the United States, which has had more than 5 million cases of COVID-19.
“Every life is critical,” first-year Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren told AP. “We wanted to make sure we continually, not only in our words but in our actions, do put the health and safety and wellness of our student-athletes first.”
Two smaller conferences, the Mid-American and Mountain West, had already announced the uncertain move to spring football. The decisions by the deep-pocketed Big Ten and Pac-12, with hundred million-dollar television contracts and historic programs, shook the foundation of college sports.