The University of Illinois has released a statement following the news Big Ten teams will only play in conference games this season.
“Health and safety of our students, coaches and staff, and fans remain the first and foremost priority of both the Big Ten and our University, and as the conference made clear today, we will not hesitate to suspend, delay, or cancel competition should such a decision be dictated by community health concerns,” the University made clear in a statement Thursday.
The announcement should concern sports fans following new IHSA regulations put forth by the Illinois Department of Public Health that take away some freedoms granted under initial guidelines, including a ban on contract drills and physical contact among athletes. Other changes to high school athletics include social distancing in weight rooms, revised plans to summer camps, and the addition that all persons must wear a mask.
The University of Illinois has told it’s students they are protected for scholarships and financial aid, regardless of their voluntary participation in sports this Fall.
IHSA new “Return to Play” guidelines also put into play a strict 50 person limit to all indoor activities, including fans. The NCAA has released their own set of guidelines, which can be overridden by local State authorities.
It’s unclear how the new IDPH regulations could affect college sports in Illinois. Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith said in a teleconference with reporters Thursday he is no longer “cautiously optimistic” about a fall football season and is “very concerned.”
Meanwhile smaller schools scheduled to match up with Big Ten teams are already cringing at the Big Ten announcement from earlier today. Experts are already calling the Big Ten only conference schedule ‘crippling’ to smaller schools like Bowling Green, which would miss out on over 2 million dollars if the Big Ten goes forth with a conference the only schedule.
Statement from the University of Illinois:
As we hope you are, those of us with the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics are encouraged by today’s announcement from the Big Ten Conference regarding plans to resume sports competitions during the coming fall. Health and safety of our students, coaches and staff, and fans remain the first and foremost priority of both the Big Ten and our University, and as the conference made clear today, we will not hesitate to suspend, delay, or cancel competition should such a decision be dictated by community health concerns.
The Big Ten released initial plans for fall sports, announcing that they will compete against only Big Ten Conference opponents. In addition, the Big Ten reiterated that for all member schools during this summer and upcoming academic year, participation in sports by our students is voluntary and scholarships and financial aid are protected for all student-athletes regardless of their participation.
Following today’s announcement that fall sports will compete against only Big Ten Conference opponents, we anticipate a flurry of questions from fans, ticket holders, donors and others regarding the implications of that announcement for football, volleyball, soccer, and cross country at the University of Illinois. Many of these questions do not yet have answers because there are still many pending decisions regarding length of season, opponents, home and away schedule dates, ticket prices and more. As soon as more information becomes available, we will share it broadly using all communication methods.
We understand the lack of answers creates an inconvenience for our fans and we appreciate their patience during these unprecedented times.