Big Ten leaders meet as college football season sputters toward collapse

The Big Ten conference is deep in discussions about the fate of the league’s 2020 football season.

Sources told Yahoo Sports that the league’s presidents and chancellors met on Sunday to discuss the future of the 2020 football season and the league’s fall sports for the second consecutive day. Sunday night ended with an expectation that the season will be canceled in the upcoming days. Commissioner Kevin Warren went so far as to instruct the programs to essentially go light in practices on Monday.

Sentiment at the Big Ten leadership level remains a strong majority to end the season. That momentum began with a presidential call on Saturday, and that had only increased by Sunday night.

In the presidents’ call on Saturday, sources told Yahoo Sports there was a majority block – but not unanimous – in support of canceling the season. The group took more than 24 hours before reconvening on Sunday night to discuss the issues again.

Sources have indicated that there’s an expectation that the league will arrive at a decision to cancel fall sports. The variable in question remains when the decision is made and whether the Big Ten can convince anyone else in joining them on the sideline.

It’s unclear how the social media movement from players to keep the season will impact the decision making of the Big Ten and the other major conferences. The #WeWantToPlay hashtag picked up steam around Twitter on Sunday night and included some of the game’s biggest names – Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Alabama tailback Najee Harris.

The Big Ten logo is seen on the field before an NCAA college football game between Iowa and Miami of Ohio, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
The Big Ten charted a conference only course for the 2020 football season. That might change dramatically. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The Big Ten’s most likely ally in stepping to the sideline will be the Pac-12. That league’s athletic directors have a Sunday night call planned and the presidents and chancellors have a Tuesday call.

The Power Five commissioners spoke on Sunday, but the varied agendas and complications of each league make it unlikely that there will be some imminent unified announcement throughout college sports. The potential end of college football in 2020 projects to be as disjoined and messy as the end of college basketball in March.

The commissioners went out of their way to dispute an ESPN report that it was an “emergency” meeting, an attempt to bring some calm to the landscape. The SEC and Big 12 in particular have been bullish the past few months on the prospect of playing this season.

The Big Ten has essentially flashed neon signs the past three months about the league’s concerns over playing the college football season. First-year commissioner Kevin Warren has seemingly gone out of his way in interviews and in league documents to leave breadcrumbs that there’s a strong possibility of a fall with no football.

The latest of those came on Saturday when the league announced that teams were pausing their practice plans and were not allowed to progress to full-contact practices with pads. If you can’t practice, you can’t play. And that pause was a glaring sign that underscored the uncertainty in the league.

Warren’s message has been consistent. He told Yahoo Sports more than a month ago that he was “very concerned” about the fate of the season in an interview about the Big Ten going to a conference-only schedule. The league’s schedule release took on a macabre tone, including a declaration that the release of a schedule does not guarantee it will be played.

“While the conference remains hopeful for a September 2020 start in all fall sports, including football, issuing a schedule does not guarantee that competition will occur,” the news release said.

And amid a hectic weekend, the chances of Big Ten football in 2020 appear dim.

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