With pre-season voluntary football practices leading to alarming numbers of new coronavirus cases, some schools have reconsidered their college athletic programs for the upcoming fall semester. On Wednesday the Ivy League postponed their fall college sports season until 2021, while on Thursday the Big Ten Conference announced that teams would play conference-only schedules should college sports resume in the fall.
The Ivy League is the first collection of Division 1 schools to cancel college football for 2020. Member schools, which include Brown, Harvard, Princeton and Yale, cite concerns of student safety, as well as the need to heed travel restrictions and social distancing requirements. Another issue is that some Ivy League schools plan to bring only parts of the student body back to campus in the fall. Harvard plans to invite just first-year students back to campus for the Fall 2020 semester, which would not allow the school to field a full football team. The choice to cancel the college football season may have been relatively easy for the Ivy League. While their schools compete in Division 1, they’re not as well known for their athletics as they are for their academics, and the League does not award sports scholarships. Furthermore, Ivy League schools are known for having large endowments and thus aren’t as dependent on a college football season to make up for lost tuition revenue.
The Big Ten, on the other hand, is largely composed of State Universities in the East and Midwest. Conference schools like Michigan State, University of Wisconsin and Penn State have huge football programs that regularly draw millions of viewers to their televised games. In their statement, the Big Ten plans to move Fall 2020 sports to conference-only schedules, but the conference has not yet decided if college sports will definitely resume this fall. They await “medical advice” on whether to confirm seasons for sports like football, soccer and cross country. Big Ten student athletes who receive sports scholarships will have their scholarships honored by the institutions, no matter if they play in the Fall 2020 season or not.
Given how big the Big Ten is in collegiate athletics, if they do decide to suspend Fall 2020 programs, it would not be surprising to see other conferences do so as well. And while cancelling college football will no doubt have an impact on the financial bottom line of many universities, preventing campus-wide and community-wide outbreaks of COVID-19 is more important than recouping lost revenue.
Are you a current or incoming student at schools in the Ivy League or the Big Ten Conference? Let us know your thoughts on their Fall 2020 athletic announcements. And be sure to flex your financial aid muscles by trying a free scholarship search and discovering how you can save on your Fall 2020 college plans.