Illini fall sports remained postponed until potentially spring 2021

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The Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe and teammates celebrate a touchdown during the game against Wisconsin on Oct. 19. Big Ten commissioner and the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors made the decision to postpone the 2020 fall sports season on August 11.

By Gabby Hajduk, Sports Editor

On August 11, Illinois athletics received another dose of bad news in regards to fall sports. Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors decided to postpone the 2020 fall sports season and work towards playing in the spring. The decision means no Illini football, volleyball, soccer or cross country this semester. 

“Unfortunately, despite best efforts on our campus and across the conference, the remaining unknowns and uncertainties stemming from COVID-19 ultimately proved insurmountable,” athletic director Josh Whitman said in a press release Aug. 11. “The health and safety of our student-athletes, staff and our community must drive our decisions. We will support our student-athletes as they deal with the emotions stemming from today’s decision. We continue to work with the Big Ten on future plans as we move forward with returning our student-athletes to classes and training.”

While the Pac-12 also announced the postponement of fall sports, the other Power Five conferences—SEC, ACC and Big 12—are all still on track to play this fall. 

Despite many rumors flying around on social media regarding a potential overturn of the original decision by Warren, the commissioner put out an open letter to the Big Ten community on Aug. 19 to explain his decision and clarify he would not be revisiting the situation. 

“We thoroughly understand and deeply value what sports mean to our student-athletes, their families, our coaches and our fans,” Warren said in the letter. “The vote by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) was overwhelmingly in support of postponing fall sports and will not be revisited. The decision was thorough and deliberative, and based on sound feedback, guidance and advice from medical experts.”

Warren cited rising transmission rates of COVID-19, unknown effects of the virus and concerns of contact tracing as the main factors that led to the postponement. 

The postponement has been disappointing for the entire athletic department, but Whitman’s goal now is to move forward and plan for the future. 

“(Tuesday) night as I was wrapping up a long, hard day I was filled with a lot of different emotions,” Whitman said in a Zoom conference Aug. 12. “As I closed my eyes to go to sleep I thought, ‘OK, when we wake up tomorrow we’ve got to be ready to get back to work.’ I think there are people who spend a lot of time complaining about where we are. There are a lot of other people who get busy trying to develop solutions. We have to be in that latter group.”

Head football coach Lovie Smith has adopted the same mentality, spreading the message, ‘control what we can control’ to his team. The 2020 Illinois football team was expected to be the best of Smith’s tenure and while those expectations might be put on hold until the spring or next fall, they will remain true until the next opportunity to play comes. 

“I’m just holding true to keeping this football team together,” Smith said in a Zoom conference Aug. 12. “And eventually we’re going to be stronger, when we get a chance to win, we get a chance to play. And that’s the thing, we are going to play.”

The football team was given a couple of weeks off with the option to return home before resuming workouts on Aug. 24. 

@gabby_h11

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