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Big Ten cancels fall football, will consider spring return

The Big Ten announced Tuesday that it opted to cancel fall sports and while considering whether to play them in the spring, the conference 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,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in the release. “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.

“We know how significant the student-athlete experience can be in shaping the future of the talented young women and men who compete in the Big Ten Conference. Although that knowledge made this a painstaking decision, it did not make it difficult. While I know our decision today will be disappointing in many ways for our thousands of student-athletes and their families, I am heartened and inspired by their resilience, their insightful and discerning thoughts, and their participation through our conversations to this point. Everyone associated with the Big Ten Conference and its member institutions is committed to getting everyone back to competition as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Also canceled for fall are men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.

At the top of major college football, the Big Ten and Pac-12 had been the two leagues considering pulling the plug on the fall.

The Big Ten put its preseason on hold last weekend, telling schools they could not conduct contact practices right around the time those should be starting, with games less than a month away.

Massachusetts became the second Northeast independent program in the highest tier of NCAA football to cancel the fall season, joining Connecticut. UMass is the 27th Bowl Subdivision program to put off fall sports in hopes of a spring season.

Pac-12 presidents were scheduled to receive a report from the conference’s medical advisory panel suggesting contact and competitive sports activities should be paused. The Pac-12′s season is scheduled to start Sept. 26.

Dr. Dave Petron of the University of Utah, a member of the Pac-12’s student-athlete health and well-being board, said in a radio interview Monday night a report of recommendations had been given to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. Petron said the rate of positive COVID-19 tests in Pac-12 states will be a critical factor in determining whether teams can play because it determines how frequently schools should be testing their athletes.

“We feel really strongly in the Pac-12, and really to make football safe, that we need to get results back in less than 24 hours,” Petron said.

The panel was hopeful that point-of-care testing, which can provide fast results, could be used to supplement the more accurate but labor-intensive COVID-19 tests without straining local testing capabilities, he said.

Growing awareness about myocarditis, inflammation of the heart that has been found in some COVID-19 patients, also is raising concerns among some administrators throughout college sports.

A day after prominent Big Ten football coaches pushed back against the possibility of canceling, leadership in that conference again convened to consider whether to keep moving toward a season scheduled to begin Labor Day weekend.

Other college conferences have indicated they are moving forward, with the OK from their medical advisers.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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