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Big Ten Postpones College Football Season


There will be no college football in the Big Ten or the Pac-12 this fall. The athletic conferences both made their announcements this afternoon, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. Conference officials say they are hoping sports start up again in the spring. Kavitha Davidson is following this for The Atlantic, and she joins us on Skype.

Hi there.

KAVITHA DAVIDSON: Hi. Thank you. I'm with The Athletic, by the way, just to tell you.

SHAPIRO: I'm so sorry. I misspoke there. Tell us more about what happened today. What did the Big Ten and Pac-12 decide?

DAVIDSON: So it wasn't that surprising given the developments that we saw over the weekend, but it still is stunning. So the Big Ten announced this morning - early afternoon that it would be postponing fall football until at least the spring. Now, the Pac-12 followed suit after a meeting among its presidents, not only announcing that it would be postponing fall football or all fall sports, it would be postponing all sports through the end of the calendar year, and that includes basketball.

SHAPIRO: Now, the Big Ten and Pac-12 are two of the five power conferences. Where do the other three stand?

DAVIDSON: So the big swing vote, if you will, among the three remaining is the Big 12. They've kind of been on the fence throughout this entire debate. The SEC has said all along that its medical advisory committee say that it's safe - it's OK to go forward with football and that it would be keeping an eye on what the Big Ten and the Pac-12 were announcing but that it would make its own decisions. So we're - everything's kind of up in the air. We're still kind of waiting for the other three dominoes to fall after today's announcements from the first two conferences.

SHAPIRO: It does seem like a dramatic about-face. Just last week, the Big Ten announced that it would play a reduced season but still a season.

DAVIDSON: So this is the biggest question I think is exactly what changed? It's been six days since the Big Ten released its fall schedule, and there really haven't been any great answers to that end, even though the question has been asked repeatedly. Ohio State's athletic director was just on Big Ten Network today and basically said the science came at us so fast. But the fact of the matter is the science that they're referring to when it comes to the long-term heart and lung consequences that can potentially arise from contracting COVID, that science hasn't actually developed very much in the past six days. So I think that that question is one that these commissioners and these university presidents will still have to answer.

SHAPIRO: Have you heard any reaction yet from players? I mean, just yesterday on this program, we had defensive lineman from Washington State Dallas Hobbs saying he wanted to play. What are you hearing now that the plug has been pulled?

DAVIDSON: I mean, these players are - like, they are the biggest victims in this entire college football fight, right? I mean, they have said that they wanted to play. They have been given absolutely no leadership throughout this entire thing, and they haven't really been given any assurances that the protocols would be in place or would suffice to play safely, if that's even possible.

So, you know, you've seen Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields just kind of tweeted, shake my head. Like, I don't think anybody really knows what to do with themselves. And then questions going forward for these athletes are, what happens to my scholarship? What happens to my transfer eligibility? And what happens to my potential future in the NFL and beyond once I'm losing this season?

SHAPIRO: That is Kavitha Davidson of The Athletic.

Thank you for speaking with us.

DAVIDSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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