Big 10 to cancel fall football season, despite Iowa voting to play

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Hawkeye Football, Homecoming, Zak Neumann
Iowa fans show the referees their disapproval as Iowa plays Northwestern at Kinnick Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

The Big 10 Conference has decided to cancel all football games scheduled for the fall as precaution against COVID-19 spread, sources familiar with conference deliberations report.

According to the Associated Press, university presidents and chancellors from the Big 10’s 14 schools held a previously unscheduled meeting on Sunday night to vote on whether to move forward with the fall season. Twelve out of 14 voted against, sportscaster Dan Patrick reported. The two who voted in favor of proceeding with the fall season were Iowa and Nebraska.

The Big 10 season may be postponed until spring for the first time in its history, but this decision has not been made. The conference’s commissioner, Kevin Warren, reportedly is in support of a spring season.

The vote comes a month after the Big 10 decided to reduce team schedules to 10 conference-only games due to COVID-19. It also comes just days after Big 10 fall training camps began (Iowa’s head football coach Kirk Ferentz canceled his team’s Monday morning practice, which would have been their fourth) and the announcement from UI Athletics Director Garta Barta that, should the fall football season proceed, the capacity of Kinnick Stadium would be reduced from approximately 70,000 to 10,000-15,000, with tickets sold on a single-game basis.

UI has been testing athletes and athletic faculty for COVID-19 since May. As of last Monday, Aug. 3, 32 of the 603 tests run had come back positive. During a July 16 press conference, Ferentz said there had been people in the football program who have tested positive, but didn’t say how many or if they were students or staff.

The reasoning behind the UI and University of Nebraska’s votes against canceling the fall football season have not been revealed. Both states are seeing cases and deaths from COVID-19 increase, as university students begin to return to residence halls. The Republican governors of both Iowa and Nebraska oppose face mask mandates, and were two of only four U.S. states to see no statewide or partial stay-at-home orders during the pandemic.

Iowa and Nebraska are the only two states in the Big 10 with no professional sports teams, which helped create a particularly robust college football culture in both.

The Big 10 is expected to announce the cancellation of the fall season on Tuesday.

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