Jul 10, 2020 - Sports

Big Ten's conference-only move could spur a regionalized college sports season

An illustration of a dome with a football field
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Big Ten announced Thursday that it will move all fall sports to a conference-only schedule.

Why it matters: This will have a snowball effect on the rest of the country, and could force all Power 5 conferences to follow suit, resulting in a regionalized fall sports season.

Driving the news: The Pac-12 is expected to make a similar decision in the coming days, sources told The Athletic.

  • The ACC will likely follow suit, at least for football, sources told Stadium. And it will assist independent Notre Dame with filling out its schedule if needed.

The big picture: While this news is jarring, non-conference scheduling would improve the chances of fall sports actually being played, as it cuts down on travel and limits outside variables (i.e. conferences having different testing protocols).

  • Going this route also buys time and gives conferences more flexibility to cancel/postpone games and make other real-time decisions during the season.

By the numbers: In the case of Big Ten football, canceling non-conference games affects 36 scheduled opponents.

  • Five marquee matchups — Ohio State at Oregon, Michigan at Washington, Notre Dame at Wisconsin, Penn State at Virginia Tech and Miami at Michigan State — will be eliminated.
  • Six FBS schools — Ball State, Bowling Green, BYU, Central Michigan, UConn and Northern Illinois — were scheduled to play two Big Ten opponents.
  • Eight FCS schools will lose their games against Big Ten schools, which also means they'll lose the six- and seven-figure money guarantees that help fund their athletic departments.

The last word: "We're in a perpetual state of fluidity right now in dealing with all of these issues," Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren told the New York Times.

  • "We're taking it one step at a time, and we're also prepared not to play the season if circumstances dictate."
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