NCAA Fall Sports Canceled, Delayed by Various Conferences

Michael Marciano
Sports Business Writer

The world has been hurting amidst the current coronavirus pandemic. Essentially every aspect of life before early March has been forever changed and college sports are no exception to that. Since the initial case in March, there have been over 171,000 COVID-related deaths in the United States alone.

In response to recent government mandated health protocols, each major sporting league has adjusted their rules. Many American sports leagues are not allowing fans in attendance and some leagues like the NBA are living in coronavirus “bubbles.” The outcome of NCAA events remain a grey area, as NCAA competition was not active during the months that the US was impacted by the virus. When news of the coronavirus first hit, in early March, every NCAA league promptly ended their season and the executive decision to cancel the 2020 “March Madness” tournament was made.

Penn State’s famous football team may not take the field this season as many teams and conferences move to postpone fall sports (Photo Courtesy of Penn State Athletics)

But what about now? If schools are going back in session- where does that leave college athletics?

As of an August 11th announcement, the Big Ten and Pac-12 leagues are suspending their seasons. These include big schools like Ohio State, Michigan, UCLA, Oregon and Seton Hall’s neighbor to the south, Rutgers. These are big schools that gross a lot of revenue from the football season, as well as having it be a great source of pride for the school. The first thing anyone ever thinks of when they hear “Michigan State” is their athletics- not necessarily their academics.

54 of the 130 FBS teams have terminated their seasons this year- including some of the “Power 5” conferences as well as the Mid-Atlantic Conference and the Mountain West Conference. Of the remaining 76 eligible FBS teams, some schools are expressing the option to opt out of play regardless of their leagues decision to move forward with the season. Old Dominion is opting out of the season, even though the league they belong to, Conference USA, is remaining open. Six major conferences- including the SEC and ACC- have not issued plans on the outcome of their leagues for the upcoming football season, although SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said “I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 leadership to take these actions…I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 members are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes” when asked on the impending outcome for the league. There have also been talks about moving NCAA Football into the spring, but this could lead to a lot of complications, including complications with NFL scouts and the NFL draft usually being in April.

Where does this leave Spring sports?

Every conference that has postponed their Fall 2020 sports season is optimistic in the return for collegiate competition in the coming Spring. Looking at the NBA, their bubble approach has shown great results- so something like this is worth a look at for the NCAA. The Big East is yet to make a statement regarding the upcoming basketball season.

Trevor Lawrence, widely believed to be the best prospect in college football, will get to play his final season as Clemson and the ACC move forward with the fall season (Photo Courtesy of

One thing is clear, college sports look a lot different now- but it’s for our own safety and well-being. Whatever measures are being taken, are being taken with the safety of the country in mind.

In response to the cancellation of football programs for the year, several schools have come out and said that they are looking into cutting other Fall and Spring sports to make up for their lost revenue from the football season. In the 2019 season schools like Texas, Texas A&M and Ohio State made over $200M in revenue from college football, a number that they need to make up somehow. This could unfortunately be the end of other sports as these athletic departments try to balance their budgets.


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