Tue, 29 Sep 2020

Reports: Big Ten football not canceled, but medical fears rise

Field Level Media
11 Aug 2020, 12:19 GMT+10

Whether the Big Ten will cancel the fall sports season, including football, remained up in the air Monday afternoon, despite earlier reports that cancellation was imminent.

Adding to the uncertainty is an apparent concern on the part of Power 5 conference administrators that a rare heart condition could result from players contracting the coronavirus, according to report from ESPN on Monday.

The reported cited two sources who have "knowledge of athletes' medical care" that five Big 10 players have been found to have myocarditis, which is inflammation of tissue in the heart.

Usually the result of a viral infection, complications of myocarditis include heart damage and possibly fatal heart attacks.

The potential risk of heart issues added another obstacle to fall sports, "and it could be we don't get there," said Dr. Jonathan Drezner, who leads the University of Washington Medicine Center for Sports Cardiology and serves as an NCAA adviser on cardiac issues.

Earlier Monday, the Detroit Free Press reported that the fall football season was off, with commissioner Kevin Warren preferring a spring football season. That came after Dan Patrick said on his Fox Sports radio show that the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences were planning to announce the cancellation of the season.

Patrick, citing a source in the Big Ten, said an internal vote of all 14 member institutions resulted in a 12-2 vote to attempt to move the season to spring, with Iowa and Nebraska casting the dissenting votes.

Later in the day, Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports and Adam Rittenberg of ESPN tweeted that league sources told them no vote had taken place.

Chris Solari, who wrote the story for the Free Press, also later said a league spokesperson told him a vote did not occur but that didn't mean the season would be played.

"Another conference source, however, tells me presidents are moving unanimously together in canceling the season, with an announcement expected Tuesday," Solari wrote on Twitter.

Politicians got involved in an apparent last-ditch attempt to save the season.

"The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled. WeWantToPlay," President Donald Trump tweeted.

And Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, wrote a letter advocating for football that he planned to send to Big Ten presidents and chancellors, a copy of which was shared by Sports Illustrated.

"There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe -- that's absolutely true," wrote Sasse, the former president of private Midland University in Nebraska.

"But the structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer that what the lived experience of 18- to 22-year olds will be if there isn't a season."

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh made a similar argument, releasing a statement declaring that the most recent 353 COVID-19 tests among players have returned negative results because of the safety protocols instituted within the program.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Monday afternoon in a Twitter post that he wasn't giving up on the 2020 season.

"Swinging as hard as we possibly can right now for these players!! This isn't over! FIGHT," Day wrote.

Amid the uncertainty, Iowa canceled practice, Michigan State switched a scheduled off day for players from Tuesday to Monday, and Purdue announced players and coaches would no longer be available to media as scheduled on Monday.

Last week, the Big Ten eliminated padded practices until further notice out of concern for the spread of the coronavirus.

Presidents and chancellors of Pac-12 institutions were scheduled to meet Tuesday. The Seattle Times reported Monday that the Washington Huskies' practice was off.

As for the ACC, Big 12 and SEC, those conferences had wanted to assess the situation after students returned to campuses this month, but ESPN stated that any postponements by the Pac-12 or Big Ten may force their hand.

SEC presidents and chancellors were holding a previously unscheduled conference call on Monday, Sports Illustrated reported.

The Mid-American Conference on Saturday voted to postpone fall sports, making it the first FBS conference to postpone football. The MAC is hoping to play in the spring instead.

--Field Level Media

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