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Big Ten postpones fall sports including football season

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ROSEMONT, Ill. (WKOW) -- A major domino has fallen in the fall college sports season. The Big Ten Conference announcing on Tuesday that all fall sports will be postponed due to ongoing health and safety concerns due to COVID-19. This includes all regular season, Big Ten Championships and Tournaments.

The decision was made base on the medical advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.

“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall."

The fall sports impacted by the announcement include football, men's and women's cross country, field hockey, men's and women's soccer, and women's volleyball. It's possible that these sports could compete in the spring but that will be considered down the road. Officials will also continue to evaluate whether the winter and spring sports seasons can start on time.

Wisconsin Director of Athetics Barry Alvarez and UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank released a joint statement following the Big Ten's announcement:

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally. For many students and staff, it has brought anxiety and stress and we are all looking forward to a time when things begin to look and feel more “normal.” 

For many months, we had hoped that the return of fall collegiate sports might be an opportunity to restore some sense of normalcy and provide brighter moments for our university, our city and our state.  Even so, today’s decision by the Big Ten to postpone the fall 2020 sports season is the correct one.

It was made with the input of medical professionals and with the best interests of student-athletes, fans and staff at its core. Athletic Department staff have worked incredibly hard to create as safe an environment as possible for our teams to practice and prepare for the season, but there is simply too much unknown risk for us to proceed with the confidence we need to launch our sports seasons.  At the end of the day, the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff is our top priority. Nothing is more important.

As the Big Ten statement indicates, sports are simply different from other campus activities.  There is no way to preserve physical distancing during competition, and masking can make competition very difficult.  There are also a variety of unknowns about the interaction of COVID-19 with extreme physical exertion.  As a result, playing the fall season would pose risks that we think are not acceptable for our student-athletes and our athletic staff.

This is a difficult moment for all of us – student-athletes, coaches, staff, students, fans and local communities – whose lives are intertwined with Badger Athletics in a variety of ways.

We are all going to miss the excitement of Saturdays at Camp Randall, cheering the volleyball team in the Field House as it was headed toward another run for a National Championship, the excellence of our cross country runners and the memorable experiences that come with men’s and women’s soccer. 

We are particularly heartbroken for the student-athletes and coaches who put so much time and effort into preparing for competition.

We also recognize that this decision will have a major financial impact on not only our Athletic Department, but the many businesses and members of our community who rely on Badger events to support their livelihoods.  These financial issues within Athletics are compounded by the deep financial challenges facing all of campus at this moment.

Today’s decision affects fall sports only, and we are still hopeful that we can find a path forward so that their seasons can be played in spring 2021. There are many obstacles to overcome for this to happen, but we will begin planning in case that is possible.  At this point, no decisions have been made regarding winter sports.

Despite this postponement, we will continue to provide support and care for our student-athletes.  That is central to our Athletic Department mission, and includes continuing their scholarships, academic advising and support, health insurance, and meals.  This also includes the safe and successful opening of the fall semester on our campus, so that all students have an opportunity to move forward in their education. 

We recognize how disappointing this news is to our Badger community. We appreciate the continued support and understanding of all those associated with Badger Athletics and the fans who cheer them on and look forward to the day we can safely resume competition in college athletics.

Matthew Cash

Senior Executive Producer

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