Big Ten cancels all athletic competition

A steady stream of coronavirus-related cancelations and postponements led to one overriding conclusion Thursday for Big Ten athletics.

Everything is done.

The conference called off all athletic competition through the end of the academic year, including what remained of its winter and spring seasons. That means schools like Indiana will not compete in any sport, anywhere, in the near future.

For IU, specifically, the morning started with an announcement that all spring sports would continue but without fans in attendance. The university went as far as to cancel the football team’s spring game on April 17, as well, but competitions were otherwise left on the table.

But throughout the day, other schools and conferences started to announce greater and more complete restrictions. Penn State shut down all football-related activities, including practices, recruiting, and the program’s pro day. Duke shut down all of its athletic programs, as the Athletic Coast Conference would later mandate for all of its teams.

The NCAA eventually announced it was shuttering its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, an unsettling blow for teams still in contention for March Madness, including both the men’s and women’s squads at IU.

But it would not matter, as the Big Ten — which had canceled its men’s basketball conference tournament hours earlier — eventually canceled all competitions, championships or otherwise.

“The Big Ten Conference will use this time to work with the appropriate medical experts and institutional leadership to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the conference’s statement read.

“The main priority of the Big Ten Conference continues to be the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans and media as we continue to monitor all developing and relevant information on the COVID-19 virus.”

That means no baseball season at Bart Kaufman Field or softball at Andy Mohr Field. That means no Hoosiers at the NCAA indoor track championships. That means an abrupt end to athletes’ careers, including seniors Devonte Green and De’Ron Davis for the Hoosier men’s basketball team.

After helping clinch IU’s 20th win of the season over Nebraska in the Big Ten tournament Wednesday, they were potentially on their way to avoiding the distinction of becoming the first IU class since 1972 to miss the NCAA tournament all four years.

“(To be honest), I don’t really have the words right now,” Green posted to Instagram. “I’ve set a goal before this season started and worked so hard to achieve that goal. The moment I reach the (promised) land my college career was put to an end. I’m sick.

“But just like everything else I’ve dealt with, all I can do is move forward. Thank you to everyone who supported/believed in me through the years.”

Green and Davis’ teammates offered similar sentiments.

“I’m sick, not just for myself but for the seniors on the team who worked so hard for this,” freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis posted to Twitter. “They deserve more.”

On the women’s side, the Hoosiers were waiting for their NCAA tournament assignment after a 24-win season, a program record. As the No. 20 team in the country, IU wasn’t far out of the running from potentially hosting March Madness games in Bloomington.

“While today’s announcement of the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament is heartbreaking, we are understanding and sympathetic to everyone who is affected by the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19,” IU coach Teri Moren said in a statement. “This has been one of the most special teams that I have ever had the pleasure of coaching. We have accomplished so much that this program hasn’t been able to do before, and I cannot wait for the future of Indiana women’s basketball.

“For our senior, Brenna Wise, we are truly grateful for your leadership, passion and dedication to our program for the last three seasons. We are better for having you in our program. Your future is incredibly bright and we are looking forward to watching your next steps.”

Along with the cancelation of all sporting events, the Big Ten also declared a moratorium on all on- and off-campus recruiting activities “for the foreseeable future.”

Of course, all of these actions were taken out of an abundance of caution, hoping to prevent the spread of a disease that has quickly swept parts of the globe. Tensions were high Wednesday night when Nebraska’s Fred Hoiberg coached an 89-64 loss to IU while visibly sick. He left the sideline before the game’s end and went to the hospital.

Nebraska’s players were temporarily quarantined in their locker room postgame. It was later announced Hoiberg had the flu.

That same night, the NBA opted to suspend its season after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with coronavirus. The next day, it was revealed teammate Donovan Mitchell also contracted the disease.

Thursday morning, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren called member schools for input on whether to continue the conference tournament, even without fans. Players from Michigan and Rutgers were on the floor at an otherwise empty Bankers Life Fieldhouse about an hour before their scheduled noon contest.

That game never tipped.

“I had to make sure I was comfortable, that I had spoken to the appropriate people,” Warren told reporters at a news conference. “You don’t want to rush these decisions. It would have been great if it could have been two hours earlier this morning, but it wasn’t. And I think the biggest thing is we made the right decision, I feel very good with our decision, I’m very confident with our decision.

“We have a fiduciary responsibility in the Big Ten to always show leadership, especially in tough times. I think that’s something that we did, to do the right thing.”

Warren said the situation with Hoiberg was just “one piece” of the decision-making process.

“I feel confident I would have come to the same decision this morning, with or without that,” Warren said.

Cancelations and postponements continued throughout the day. Shortly after 3 p.m., the Atlantic Coast Conference suspended all athletic competition, including championship events. It was then reported by FloTrack that all ACC and Big Ten indoor track teams had been instructed to withdraw from the NCAA championships.

The NHL and MLB also suspended play, the latter bumping the start of its season back at least two weeks.

The Big Ten’s release landed at 4:23 p.m., abruptly putting an end to the season for its member schools.

“The health and safety of our students and the public must always be our top priority,” Miller said in a statement. “The guidance provided by experts on a situation like this should never be ignored for any reason regardless of our individual interest.”

“It’s a disappointing end for our seniors, De’Ron and Devonte. But they will leave Indiana University as better people, and importantly, as graduates,” Miller added. “The future for our group offers limitless possibilities and I look for them to use this year’s experience as a springboard.”


  1. Not only that NCAA has just CANCELLED the mens and womens tournament. You knew it was coming Since the NBA had already cancelled their season. Yes cancelled not postponed. I hope everyone stays safe and healthy thru this.

  2. I strongly suggest everyone YouTube Jay Bilas’ response to Reece Davis on the NCAA tourney cancellation issue. Very, very informative & a very likely reason for the decision.

    Basically, he reference the insurance & contracts that the NCAA has in place. In other words they are likely to recoup losses by cancelling vs. postponement.

  3. Thank you wuhan china and your “wet market” . 60 minutes did an upclose piece on this where this now global pandemic sprang from you can find it on youtube or elsewhere if interested.

    There has been talk more recently this morning of recouping the lost season for any seniors wishing to come back as if it never happened. Dont know if this will or can happen but it is a possibility. On that same note appears “waiver of transfer ” will be voted on in april and it sounds as if it could become active for the 20-21 season. In other words a player will be able to transfer without sitting out a year.

  4. What about the colleges role in training college athletes in Olympic sports: swimming, diving, track and field, etc.?

  5. Concerning the possibility of Seniors being able to come back for another season if they chose too, how will that work with potential recruits coming in expecting to possibly play,, or will they back out not wanting to sit out a year because that scholarship is delayed. Dont forget sounds as if there may be a waiver rule passed that will allow a one-time transfer without penalty to sit out a year.

  6. I think most seniors are ready to move on unless there is something in it for them. Opportunities for continued education grad programs for example.

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