© Copyright – 2020 – Athletics Illustrated

The sporting calendar continues to be decimated by the Coronavirus pandemic. One of the latest casualties is the NCAA’s Big Ten Conference. On Tuesday the conference announced through a public statement on their website that all fall sports will be postponed.

University of Michigan Ben Flanagan leads team (2017)

“The Big Ten Conference announced the postponement of the 2020-21 fall sports season, including all regular-season contests and Big Ten Championships and Tournaments, due to ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In making its decision, which was based on multiple factors, the Big Ten Conference relied on the medical advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.

“Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff,” said Morton Schapiro, Chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University President…”

The postponement includes all regular-season contests and Big Ten Championships and Tournaments.

One prominent university, the Wisconsin Badgers, followed suit with a release supporting the postponement.

“For many months, we had hoped that the return of fall collegiate sports might be an opportunity to restore some sense of normalcy and provide brighter moments for our university, our city and our state. Even so, today’s decision by the Big Ten to postpone the fall 2020 sports season is the correct one.”

Will there be Indoor and Outdoor Track Seasons?

A look at reconvening in the spring is considered, however, it is too early to tell what the late winter and spring racing schedule could look like at this stage.

A Covid-19 vaccine will need to be available en-masse. According to some sources, one may not be available until at least summer 2021.

From 2018 Harry Jerome Track Classic. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

Should social distancing continue until then, there will also be the economic impact that universities may need to deal with.

University of Michigan Coach Kevin Sullivan told Athletics Illustrated, “It’s way too early to even begin to guess what will happen with indoors and outdoors,” when asked about the potential impact going into 2021 and the two track seasons. “We will prepare through the fall on the assumption that we will have competitive opportunities in 2021.”

That’s all that the athletics community can do. Sullivan is focussed on putting internal competitive opportunities together for his teams this fall, however, that may look like.

Over Twitter Sullivan wrote, “My initial reaction is sadness for everyone, especially those in our men’s and women’s cross-country programs. They’re in a unique position because they already lost a season this spring as members of the track and field teams, so they spent all summer getting ready and getting excited for the fall. To have another season taken away is going to be a really tough blow for them.”

The Michigan Wolverines teams are strong. During the 2019 NCAA Championships, the men finished seventh overall with 250 points. They placed four finishers in the top-60. The women placed 13 of 31. Both teams look to be stronger this year.

“I really want to give a big thank you to our entire medical staff because they have gone above and beyond to put protocols into place that allowed us to come back to campus this summer in a safe manner….they deserve a big shout out.” Added Sullivan in a later tweet.

Kathy Butler, Head Coach of the Run Boulder Athletic Club feels especially sorry for the seniors, as this is their final opportunity in the NCAA to help their respective teams in their conferences, and at nationals.

“I feel badly for the coaches and athletes but I think given the current infection rate in the US and unknown long-term effect on athletes, it is the smart decision to make. I suspect they will not be able to hold concurrent outdoor track and cross-country seasons in the spring and some kind of decision will be made to only have outdoor track. I am encouraged by Wisconsin’s commitment to support the student-athletes but truly feel sorry for the seniors in particular who will never get that last season back.”

To date, there have been 21,031,396 Coronavirus cases globally. So far, 751,819 people have died and 13,830,480 have recovered. The US has had the most cases, however, the US has also tested the second-highest number of people second only to China, 68-million to 90-million, respectively.

US cases: 5,405,100
US deaths: 170,093
US recovered: 2,831,072

Stats according to www.worldometers.info.

The global athletics community has made due during the pandemic with time trials, virtual races, and virtual streamed meets, where athletes compete at the same time from their respective training locations. It appears that this will continue. As the NHL, NBA, MLB, and the NFL are playing out adjusted schedules to audience-free stadiums, the NCAA and athletics, in general, may have to venture down the same path. For now though, for student and staff safety, there will be no organised competitive meets.

See World Health Organizatoin (WHO) statement on the number of (150) expressions of interest for a fair and rapid deployment of the vaccine when it is available. They hope to have all of the world’s most vulnerable vaccinated by end of 2021.