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Big Ten has postponed college football. Others to follow?

Other Power 5 conferences are expected to follow.

NCAA Football: Appalachian State at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Updated 8/11 3:00 p.m.: The Big Ten has officially released a statement — the fall sports season will be postponed, with hopes that football will be played in the spring.

Update 8/10 2:24 p.m.: Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports tweeted this after the initial Detroit Free Press report, that a Big Ten spokesperson says that there hasn’t been any vote among the Big Ten presidents and chancellors. We’ve included Pete’s tweet below, but the original article remains unchanged.

According to the Detroit Free Press and other reports, the Big Ten has voted to cancel the 2020 college football season amidst concerns relating to short- and long-term health due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s expected that the Pac 12 will soon be following suit, while the ACC and Big 12 are still on the fence. The SEC, according to multiple reports, is still hoping to press forward.

Nothing has been announced, but according to the reports, the Big Ten presidents voted 12-2 to end fall sports, with only Nebraska and Iowa voting to play. According to the Free Press, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren is hoping for a spring football season.

The NCAA—you know, the governing body whose website says that they “were founded to keep college sports safe”—had left it up to the individual conferences to decide the fate of fall sports and fall championships. UConn became the first FBS school to cancel its college football season altogether, while the MAC announced on August 8 that it would be postponing its fall sports in hopes of playing in the spring.

ESPN reported that the Big Ten was the first Power 5 conference prepared to cancel fall sports, and pulled together an emergency meeting of all five commissioners on Sunday, August 9, to gauge the temperature of the remaining conferences.

While this is objectively the safest route to go to protect and prioritize the health of student athletes, staff, coaches, administrators and fans, it does leave a lot of open questions should the ACC and other conferences follow—questions that we won’t find answers to any time soon.

  • How will schools recover the revenue lost from the gap season? Many schools—Virginia included—have massive endowments that can be used in situations like this, but that’s not without impact. Endowments are earmarked for specific purposes and for the most part, schools rely on the interest generated annually to fund operating expenses. Dipping into the endowment now will have lasting effects in future operations.
  • Will non-revenue sports survive? We already saw Stanford announce that they’d be cancelling 11 varsity sports after this year (men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball and wrestling). If schools can’t make up a meaningful amount of the lost revenue, will the remaining sports be sustainable?
  • What will happen to the other major revenue generator, college basketball? November will be here before we know it and your still-reigning national champions are poised for a pretty strong season...if they can find a way to play. By all accounts, it’s unlikely that we’ll have anything under control by then, and while basketball has a much smaller traveling party, you’re still looking at college students not contained in a bubble and with vastly differing testing protocols and operating standards.

Virginia last released its COVID-19 testing results on July 24 following their second round of testing, which included students back on grounds from men’s basketball, women’s basketball, field hockey, football, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball. Among the 235 tested, there were four positive tests, none of whom required hospitalization. On a media call Monday afternoon, UVA said that its latest round of testing revealed no positive tests across any sports.

Virginia hasn’t yet announced how tickets will be handled for those who have already purchased, although the school announced earlier this summer that season ticket holders have the option of donating it to the operational budget, donating it to the Master Plan, taking a credit for the following year (which would help with the school’s cash flow management this year), or taking a refund.

We’ll update this as news breaks out over the coming hours and days.