Big Ten to play conference games only in 2020

The Big Ten will shift to a 10-game schedule, comprised exclusively on conference games, for the 2020 college football season.

The league is eliminating non-conference games — even those in relatively near proximity, such as Illinois vs. Illinois State and Wisconsin vs. Notre Dame — as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.


The Atlantic Coast Conference and Pac-12 conference are reportedly set to announce they will follow the same path and eliminate non-conference games.

ESPN reported Big Ten university presidents made the decision “to eliminate some long-distance travel and help ensure that their teams are being tested for coronavirus universally.”

In total, 36 teams are impacted by losing scheduled games against Big Ten opponents, including multiple Mid-American Conference schools. Northern Illinois and Bowling Green are among the MAC teams scheduled to play two Big Ten opponents.

Several teams will lose multiple home games as a result, and take another hit from subtracting the gate from a revenue-generating sport.

The geographic spread of the conference is significant.

Rutgers University is 1,286 miles from the University of Nebraska and 1,186 miles from the University of Minnesota.

Nebraska is scheduled to travel to Piscataway, N.J., on Oct. 24.

The Big Ten nonconference schedule included several high-profile matchups: Michigan at Washington on Sept. 5, Ohio State at Oregon on Sept. 12, Miami (Fla.) at Michigan State on Sept. 26, and Wisconsin-Notre Dame at Lambeau Field on Oct. 3.

The Big Ten announcement Thursday reads:

We are facing uncertain and unprecedented times, and the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, game officials, and others associated with our sports programs and campuses remain our number one priority.

To that end, the Big Ten Conference announced today that if the Conference is able to participate in fall sports (men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball) based on medical advice, it will move to Conference-only schedules in those sports. Details for these sports will be released at a later date, while decisions on sports not listed above will continue to be evaluated. 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.

This decision was made following many thoughtful conversations over several months 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 Conference announced that summer athletic activities will continue to be voluntary in all sports currently permitted to engage in such activities. Furthermore, Big Ten student-athletes who choose not to participate in intercollegiate athletics at any time during the summer and/or the 2020-21 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.

While Big Ten member institutions continue to rely on the most up-to-date medical information to establish the best protocols for voluntary workouts on their campuses, in compliance with local and state regulations, the Conference is working with the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee to finalize Conference-wide protocols.

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.

–Field Level Media