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Report: Big Ten moving to conference-only model for all sports this fall

Following the Ivy League's decision to postpone fall & winter sports until Jan. 1, the Big Ten is headed toward having a conference-only football schedule
Credit: Big Ten Conference

ROSEMONT, Illinois — The Big Ten confirmed on Thursday that it will play a conference-only season for all fall sports, including football.

In a statement, the conference said, "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."

See the complete statement here.

If college football can be played this fall, Big Ten presidents and athletics directors prefer playing a conference-only schedule, which would eliminate some long-distance travel and help ensure that their teams are being tested for coronavirus universally, multiple sources inside the league and around college football told ESPN.

Some Big Ten schools preferred playing only conference foes with one additional non-league game, which would preserve some of its marquee non-Big Ten matchups, but there is overwhelming support for a 10-game conference-only schedule, the sources said.

Big Ten presidents and athletics directors discussed the issues during a conference call earlier this week, and the league's head coaches were given an opportunity to weigh in on Thursday morning.

An assistant coach at a Big Ten program told ESPN that his head coach instructed him to stop scouting and preparing for nonconference opponents and focus only on Big Ten foes.

The Big Ten's decision to play only conference opponents would affect 36 scheduled opponents, including 28 from the FBS and eight from the FCS. Six FBS schools -- Ball State, Bowling Green, BYU, Central Michigan, UConn and Northern Illinois -- are scheduled to play two Big Ten opponents this season.

The decisions mean that the Big Ten lose marquee nonconference matchups, including Michigan's road game at Washington on Sept. 5, Ohio State's trip to Oregon on Sept. 12, Michigan State's home game against Miami on Sept. 26, and Wisconsin's contest against Notre Dame at Lambeau Field on Oct. 3.

Credit: Getty Images
Big Ten Championship Game: Ohio State players victorious, holding Big Ten signs after winning game vs Wisconsin at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis, IN

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