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Big Ten postponing football, other fall sports; NU leaders say they are 'very disappointed' in decision
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VIRUS FALLOUT HITS NU SPORTS

Big Ten postponing football, other fall sports; NU leaders say they are 'very disappointed' in decision

From the Milestones in Nebraska's coronavirus fight series
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Memorial Stadium, 8.10

The Big Ten on Tuesday postponed all fall sports including football and said it will explore the possibility of holding some of them in the spring. 

Nebraska football coach Scott Frost said Monday he thinks his team could be ready to play in a week.

The Huskers and the rest of the Big Ten Conference are going to have to wait a lot longer than that.

In an historic move, the Big Ten postponed all fall sports, including football, announcing the move Tuesday afternoon in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The league said in a statement that competing in the spring remains "a possibility."

"When you look at this decision, we just believe collectively that there's too much uncertainty at this point in time in our country to encourage our student-athletes to participate in fall sports," Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said during a Big Ten Network interview after the announcement. 

The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors met Tuesday morning, which appears to have led to the final decision.

Nebraska's other fall sports are women's volleyball, women's soccer, and men's and women's cross country.

“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,” Warren said in a statement. “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.

“We know how significant the student-athlete experience can be in shaping the future of the talented young women and men who compete in the Big Ten Conference. Although that knowledge made this a painstaking decision, it did not make it difficult. 

"While I know our decision today will be disappointing in many ways for our thousands of student-athletes and their families, I am heartened and inspired by their resilience, their insightful and discerning thoughts, and their participation through our conversations to this point. Everyone associated with the Big Ten Conference and its member institutions is committed to getting everyone back to competition as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Nebraska leadership took a strong stance against the decision in a statement on behalf of Frost, UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green, athletic director Bill Moos and NU President Ted Carter. 

“We are very disappointed in the decision by the Big Ten Conference to postpone the fall football season, as we have been and continue to be ready to play. Safety comes first. Based on the conversations with our medical experts, we continue to strongly believe the absolute safest place for our student-athletes is within the rigorous safety protocols, testing procedures, and the structure and support provided by Husker Athletics. 

"We will continue to consult with medical experts and evaluate the situation as it emerges. We hope it may be possible for our student-athletes to have the opportunity to compete.”

The school said it would have no further comment Tuesday.

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The decision comes one day after Frost and three other Big Ten coaches went public with their desire to play football this fall and less than a week after the conference announced its 10-game, conference-only fall schedule. 

Green was Nebraska’s representative on the President’s Council and was on the call Tuesday.

Frost on Monday made it clear that the Nebraska leadership group was unanimously in favor of moving forward with a season this fall. 

“To make a commitment to play like we want to and are doing here at Nebraska, you have to have everybody aligned,” Frost said. “I think all the people that I talk to, that are involved in making this decision, believe the same thing I do. The best thing for our state, the best thing for our community, our university, our Athletic Department, football team and the health and well-being of our student-athletes is to play and keep an environment where we can protect.”

On BTN, Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said he first heard that the league might be moving toward a decision like this Saturday. 

"I got some information that the medical experts and our commissioner got together and discussed, in detail, moving forward and that’s where things went south," Brohm said. "I don’t know what was said exactly, I don’t know all the details, I was not on that meeting, but I think it was a long meeting from what I heard of information that was shared and their opinions on how to go forward and what to do and I think from there things turned south and that’s how we got to this end result." 

Frost said the coaches' calls he’s been on have been unanimous in support of playing.

“Every coach says that they want to play. I think every school is in a little bit of a different situation, from political environment to the shape of their student-athletes, how quickly they got them back,” he said. “But people need to understand the carnage and aftermath of what college athletics looks like if we don’t play. This isn’t as simple as canceling a Little League game and picking up and playing next Saturday.”

Indeed, the Big Ten now has myriad issues to sort out and little time to do so. What are the eligibility ramifications? Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told local reporters there's a Wednesday meeting scheduled to discuss that.

Meanwhile, Alvarez said Big Ten teams are allowed to continue training on a 20-hour-per-week schedule that is similar to the recently completed "mini-camp" setup, which allows for walk-throughs, weight lifting and film work, but no padded practices.

Also, will NU or any other teams be allowed to pursue other games this fall? What might a spring season look like? Is that even feasible? 

Alvarez said perhaps six or eight games in the spring might be doable, but that might mean shortening the 2021 fall season, too.

Former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had a simpler answer on BTN when asked if he thought games will be played in the spring: "No chance." 

About an hour after the Big Ten's announcement, the Pac-12 called a news conference to say its season would be postponed until the spring. Meanwhile, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said on the "Dan Patrick Show" on Tuesday morning, “Our medical advisory group has said, ‘Yes, we can continue to go forward.’ Should that advice change, that would certainly be a stopping point."

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Husker football reporter

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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