The Big Ten is the first college-football conference to eliminate nonconference games for the 2020 football season, and many expect other power conferences, such as the SEC, to follow suit.
The reason for the decision: reduction of travel across the board. It applies to all active fall sports (men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball) and is based on medical advice.
There are a few practical impacts of this decision, though the specifics still need to be released. For a school like the University of Minnesota, the loss of nonconference games means the loss of three home games at TCF Bank Stadium. Though it was not announced by the Big Ten, multiple outlets are reporting that at least one of those games could be replaced by a conference game, with a goal a 10-game slate for the season. Again, going back to the University of Minnesota, it would appear the school would add one home Big Ten game: only four conference home games are currently on the schedule. The Ohio State University football schedule is already showing three nonconference games canceled (including a road game against Oregon); with five home games already on the 2020 football season schedule, it looks like the Buckeyes may be adding a conference road game this year.
Speaking of practical impacts: smaller schools like Northern Illinois and Bowling Green, both of whom had scheduled two Big Ten road games this year, will lose out on big paydays.
It also impacts both conference and nonconference games scheduled for neutral sites. A University of Wisconsin-Northwestern game set for Wrigley Field will be moved to Ryan Field, while an Oct. 3 University of Wisconsin-Notre Dame game at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field will be scrapped, though UW officials hope to reschedule it in the future.
A power conference like the Big Ten would not make a move like this unilaterally, and the word is that the SEC will announce a similar move shortly. As we approach the middle of July, the NCAA and power conferences are certainly taking a closer look at the 2020 football season schedules. Moving the football schedule to the spring is still an option on the table should it be apparent that COVID-19 mitigation measures continue to sputter. The Ivy League has already canceled the 2020 football season schedule, and the ACC has announced a delay of the fall sports season to Sept. 1.
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