Big Ten moving to conference-only schedule for 2020

Wisconsin won’t be playing Notre Dame this fall. In fact, the Badgers won’t be playing any non-conference games.

The Big Ten announced Thursday that it is going to a conference-only schedule for all fall sports, including football.

We are facing uncertain and unprecedented times, and the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, game officials, and others associated with our sports programs and campuses remain our number one priority.

To that end, the Big Ten Conference announced today that 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. Details for these sports will be released at a later date, while decisions on sports not listed above will continue to be evaluated. 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.

This decision was made following many thoughtful conversations over several months between the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, Directors of Athletics, Conference Office staff, and medical experts including the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.

In addition, the Conference announced that summer athletic activities will continue to be voluntary in all sports currently permitted to engage in such activities. Furthermore, Big Ten student-athletes who choose not to participate in intercollegiate athletics at any time during the summer and/or the 2020-21 academic year due to concerns about COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarship honored by their institution and will remain in good standing with their team.

While Big Ten member institutions continue to rely on the most up-to-date medical information to establish the best protocols for voluntary workouts on their campuses, in compliance with local and state regulations, the Conference is working with the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee to finalize Conference-wide protocols.

As we continue to focus on how to play this season in a safe and responsible way, based on the best advice of medical experts, we are also prepared not to play in order to ensure the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes should the circumstances so dictate.

Commissioner Kevin Warren admitted on the Big Ten Network that the move to a conference-only schedule doesn’t mean sports are guaranteed to happen.

We may not have sports in the fall. We may not have a college football season in the Big Ten,” Warren told the network. “We just wanted to make sure this was the next logical step to try and rely on our medical experts to keep our student-athletes at the center of all our decisions and make sure they are as healthy as they can possibly be from a mental, physical and emotional wellness standpoint.”

For Wisconsin, it means the game against the Fighting Irish at Lambeau Field on Oct. 3 won’t be played. It was the first half of a two-game, neutral site series between the two schools, with the second game set to take place at Soldier Field in Chicago next season. Both schools announced they were committed to playing the game next season and rescheduling the game in Green Bay.

If that is to happen, Wisconsin would have to make room on its schedule. The Badgers already have the three non-conference games they play set through 2025.

Under the new setup, the Badgers also won’t host Southern Illinois on Sept. 12 or Appalachian State on Sept. 19 at Camp Randall Stadium.