The Big Ten released a statement July 9 stating that the conference will adjust their fall sports schedule to “conference only” for all fall sports during the 2020-21 academic year.
This announcement means all fall sports — including men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball — will only play teams in the Big Ten conference, eliminating all games against non-conference opponents.
The decision was based on medical precautions as the conference wants to limit travel and give scheduling flexibility amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
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According to the Big Ten’s statement, shortening the schedule to conference-only gives the conference “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 Big Ten is the first of the Power Five conferences to announce their universal schedule change. With so much uncertainty surrounding safety and travel, it will be interesting to see if other conferences follow in the Big Ten’s footsteps.
It seems as though other Power Five conferences are soon to follow. The Pac-12 is expected to announce their decision to move to conference-only in the coming days, according to CBS Sports. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman announced that the ACC is considering making the change as well. The Big 12 and SEC haven’t commented on their plans as of the publication of this article.
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The decision has a huge impact on Wisconsin athletics, particularly the football team. Before the announcement, the Badgers were locked in for a non-conference showdown October 3 against Notre Dame at Lambeau Field. Since the Irish aren’t in the Big Ten, it looks like the Badgers will lose the opportunity to cement an early-season statement win.
Without resume-boosting wins, the question is whether the decision will affect Wisconsin and other national contenders in the Big Ten’s chances of reaching the College Football Playoff. The Big Ten hasn’t won a game in the CFP since Ohio State won the inaugural championship in 2014.