Big Ten limits football, Michigan-ASU game canceled

Arkansas State defenders engulf Louisiana-Lafayette’s Jalen Williams during the Oct. 17, 2019, game at Centennial Bank Stadium. A-State’s first match-up with the University of Michigan, originally set for Sept. 19, has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

JONESBORO — The Big Ten Conference’s announcement it will not play nonconference games in football because of the coronavirus pandemic hit close to home Thursday.

Arkansas State University was scheduled to play the University of Michigan on Sept. 19 for the first time. Now that game is off the schedule.

The game would have meant $1.8 million for A-State.

According to CBS Sports, Michigan will also drop its Sept. 5 game at Washington and Sept. 12 against Ball State.

The A-State athletics department released a brief statement on the cancellation Thursday afternoon.

“There were no conversations between Arkansas State and Michigan about canceling our football game on Sept. 19, 2020,” Jerry Scott, associate AD for media relations, stated Thursday in an email. “We are evaluating all options in light of today’s Big Ten Conference announcement.”

Scott said Friday there are no plans on the part of A-State to drop any games from the 2020 schedule.

When asked if A-State still will receive the guarantee/buyout for the Michigan game, Scott said “A-State Athletics is working through the details.”

Big Ten officials cited medical advice in making its decision and added ominously that the plan would be applied only “if the conference is able to participate in fall sports.”

“As we continue to focus on how to play this season in a safe and responsible way, based on the best advice of medical experts, we are also prepared not to play in order to ensure the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes should the circumstances so dictate,” the league said.

According to the website Michigan Live, mlive.com, the University of Michigan could wind up owing $4 million in cancellation fees.

Cancellation fees are included in each game contract, including $1.5 million for the Washington game, $925,000 for the Ball State game, and the $1.8 million for the Arkansas State game, which wasn’t agreed to until February 2018, according to the website.

“If those institutions choose to, and their respective leagues don’t decide to follow in the Big Ten’s footsteps and go to a conference-only schedule this fall, they could try to recoup that money.”

It’s unclear at this point what Arkansas State and Ball State plan to do about the cancelation.

Both only have a one-game contract with Michigan, which stipulates that they become void “in the event it becomes impossible to play,” citing such acts inclement weather, “an act of God,” strike, lockout or labor dispute, order, law or rule from the NCAA, state and federal law, or “the occurrence of any other event that is beyond the reasonable control of the party,” according to the Michigan Live report.

The Big Ten announcement came a day after the Ivy League called off fall sports and Stanford announced it was cutting 11 varsity sports as it struggles with the financial impact the virus outbreak is having on its budget.

There was no immediate reaction from the other big conferences, though the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 have all indicated they intend to play fall sports, anchored by football, by far the biggest moneymaker.

The Big Ten said it would release detailed schedules later and continue to evaluate other sports. The league said its schools will honor scholarships for athletes who choose not to compete in the upcoming academic year because of concerns about the coronavirus.

Indiana athletic director Scott Dolson said he and his Big Ten colleagues “know that there remain many questions that still need to be answered, and we will work toward finding those answers in the coming weeks.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.