If the 2020 college football season happens, the Big Ten will play a conference-only schedule.
For Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, that "if" is crucial.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters shortly after the Big Ten announced all of its fall sports will play conference-only schedules in 2020, Smith admitted he was worried this year's fall sports season may not ultimately happen. Dating back to the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the sports world has largely remained paused, with spiking numbers in recent weeks threatening the viability of fall football.
"I am very concerned," Smith said during the call. "I used to be cautiously optimistic but I’m not even there now."
According to Smith, the move to switch to an all-conference schedule was made in order to give schools the most flexibility possible should their seasons be delayed or paused. Still, while details on how the Big Ten will now handle its season remain unclear, it may not ultimately matter if the United States can't reverse its recent coronavirus trends.
"People need to follow the protocols to give our kids a chance to compete," Smith said.
On Wednesday night, Ohio State paused its on-campus workouts after a number of student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19. While the Big Ten's season remains on track -- for now -- smaller schools have already opted to cancel their entire fall sports slates, including Oberlin College and Case Western Reserve University.