Conference-only schedules declared for Big Ten if fall sports resume

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Thursday, the Big Ten Conference announced its teams will only play within their conference if fall sports resume due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league cited medical advice in reaching its decision, the biggest yet by a power conference, and added ominously that the plan would be applied only “if the conference is able to participate in fall sports.”

A statement from the conference states the sports affected include men’s and women’s cross-country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.

"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," the statement reads in part.

The decision was determined 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 Big Ten announced that summer athletic activities will continue to be voluntary in all sports currently permitted to engage in such activities. Big Ten student-athletes who choose to not participate in intercollegiate athletics at any time during the summer and/or the 2020-2021 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, according to the conference.

The announcement came a day after the Ivy League Conference canceled sporting events until at least January.

The Big Ten said it would release detailed schedules at a later date and continue to evaluate other sports.

"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," the league said.

University of Minnesota Athletics Director Mark Coyle issued the following statement to KSTP Sports:

"We are supportive of the Big Ten’s decision to move to an all-conference schedule for all fall sports. We will continue to work with medical experts and Big Ten and campus leadership as we prepare for this transition. We clearly realize there are more questions than answers right now, but we will do our best to answer those appropriately when more information is available.

"We will also honor all student-athlete scholarships for the 2020-21 academic year if a student elects not to participate in athletics due to COVID-19 concerns."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.