The fate of the 2020 college football season is in free fall mode after a tumultuous Monday that saw both the Big Ten and Pac-12 cancel their fall football seasons. What does that mean for the other Power 5 Conferences? Here’s a conference-by-conference look at where things stand as of now:
Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted on Tuesday to postpone its football and other fall sports season, with the hopes of playing in the spring, sources confirmed to ESPN.
The league is expected to make a formal announcement once it notifies its players and coaches.
On Sunday, ESPN first reported that Big Ten presidents, following a meeting on Saturday, were ready to cancel the fall sports season, and they wanted to gauge whether commissioners and university presidents and chancellors from the other Power 5 conferences — the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — would fall in line with them.
Officials with the ACC and SEC have indicated they plan to proceed with seasons this fall, but it’s unclear whether the Big Ten’s decision will change those plans.
The Pac-12 CEO group voted Tuesday to cancel fall sports and will look at options to play in the spring, sources told ESPN.
Last month, in the wake of the same decision from the Big Ten, the conference determined that it would proceed with a conference-only football schedule to begin September 26. The Pac-12’s decision to cancel the fall schedule Tuesday, again, follows the same decision from the Big Ten, which announced its decision to cancel fall sports about an hour into the Pac-12’s CEO group meeting.
The CEO group is made up of a chancellor or president from each of the conference’s 12 universities and is the ultimate decision-maker for the Pac-12.
The SEC is digging its heels in, at least for now, and that’s despite what the Big Ten, Pac-12 or anybody else decides about the 2020 college football season.
For months, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has said the league will use all of the time it can to make any decisions about the fall and gather as much information as possible from medical officials. Sankey was sounding a similar theme Monday amid all the reports of different conferences shutting it down this fall.
Sankey tweeted: “Best advice I’ve received since COVID-19: ‘Be patient. Take time when making decisions. This is all new & you’ll gain better information each day.’ @SEC has been deliberate at each step since March. … delayed first game to respect start of fall semester.”
The SEC pushed back the start of its season until Sept. 26. Several SEC athletic directors told ESPN that the league is committed to staying the course and hopeful that at least one other Power 5 conference will do the same. Ultimately, the greatest challenge to playing this fall will be presidents and chancellors standing firm in the face of liability.
Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman met with the Vols team on Monday and tweeted that she received a “resounding YES” when she asked the players whether they wanted to play this season.
“This group of student-athletes have worked hard to prepare for the season amidst details and strict healthy and safety protocols. I can’t wait to see them on the field in Neyland Stadium,” Plowman tweeted.
Even with the Big Ten and Pac-12 postponing football, the talk out of the ACC suggests any movement toward cancellation will come independently of other leagues.
ACC athletic directors met Monday morning and did not alter their current plan for the fall season. Practices continued across the league, including at Syracuse, which had skipped two days of workouts last week amid player safety concerns, and at Clemson, where Trevor Lawrence and Darien Rencher helped spearhead a push from players throughout the country calling for the season to be played.
“I’m glad our conference is fighting for us,” Lawrence said. “If we see progress, let’s continue to play. If it gets bad, we’ll course correct, but right now it’s been good, and they owe it to the players to fight for us.”
It won’t be the ADs who have the final say, however. The league’s presidents and chancellors are expected to meet Wednesday to discuss options, and they could be influenced by what happens with the Big Ten and Pac-12. One ACC coach said things are changing hour by hour.
Still, coaches are progressing as if the league will stick to its current plan, which would have the season open on Sept. 10. Louisville’s Scott Satterfield said in a Monday Zoom conference that the ACC would make its own decisions and lambasted other leagues for “doing this yo-yo.”
“We’re planning to follow that plan until we’re told otherwise,” another coach said. “The next hurdle is when all the other students return.”
No decisions have been made by the Big 12 to this point, but league officials will meet on Tuesday, starting with the athletic directors, followed by the conference’s board of directors.
The league could provide the turning point in deciding how much college football happens this fall, and at this point, it’s difficult to decipher which way the Big 12 will go. If the Big Ten and Pac-12 shut it down, will the Big 12 follow them, or will it hold out with the SEC and perhaps the ACC in trying to forge ahead?
The league appears to be on the fence at the moment, but given how the scheduling announcements played out in recent weeks, don’t expect the Big 12 to rush to a decision; it could be the last among the Power 5 to make a move.