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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."

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Oct 14, 2020 - Sports

Sports stadiums welcome voters, not fans

Map: Axios Visuals

The NBA just completed a historic season that required the league to shutter its arenas. Now, it will help execute a historic election by re-opening them to voters.

Why it matters: The momentum created by the NBA has extended to other leagues, culminating in the largest political effort the sports world has ever seen.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Epic's long game against Apple

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Epic's Apple lawsuit is costing the company dearly, but the game developer has its eye on a valuable long-term goal: prying tomorrow's virtual worlds loose from the grip of app store proprietors like Apple.

Between the lines: Epic isn't spending a fortune in legal fees and foregoing a ton of revenue just to shave some costs off in-app purchases on today's phones. Rather, it's planning for a future of creating virtual universes via augmented and virtual reality — without having to send a big chunk of their economies to Apple or Google.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Slow global COVID-19 vaccination rates are raising concerns that worse variants of the coronavirus could be percolating, ready to rip into the world before herd immunity can diminish their impact.

Why it matters: The U.S. aims to at least partially vaccinate 70% of adults by July 4, a move expected to accelerate the current drop of new infections here. But variants are the wild card, and in a global pandemic where only about 8% of all people have received one dose, the virus will continue mutating unabated.

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