The Big Ten logo near the 20-yard line in a 2019 Buffalo-Penn State game.

Thursday saw a big (or B1G) domino fall in the discussion about what college football will look like this fall. A day after the Ivy League announced they won’t play sports this fall, Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic broke the news that the Big Ten won’t play out-of-conference football games this year:

The Big Ten later officially announced this, and for all fall sports, not just football. And their statement includes the notable caveat that even a conference-only fall season is not guaranteed. The key part there is “the Big Ten Conference announced today that if the Conference is able to participate in fall sports (men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball) based on medical advice, it will move to Conference-only schedules in those sports. Details for these sports will be released at a later date, while decisions on sports not listed above will continue to be evaluated.”

But if there is a Big Ten football season, but one without out-of-conference games, that’s pretty notable. That would impact a lot of big games, including Ohio State-Oregon, Michigan-Washington, Notre Dame-Wisconsin, and Penn State-Virginia Tech. And it also impacts a lot of games for teams from smaller conferences, perhaps especially the Mid-American Conference. (A photo of the 20-yard line ahead of a 2019 Buffalo-Penn State game is used at the top of this post.) Here’s a conference breakdown from @RedditCFB:

Here’s a list of all the affected games, using’s week-by-week CFB schedule for the Big Ten:

Week 0: None.

Week 1: Florida Atlantic-Minnesota, Illinois State-Illinois, Northern Iowa-Iowa, Towson-Maryland, Bowling Green-Ohio State, Kent State-Penn State, Michigan-Washington, Monmouth-Rutgers

Week 2: Ball State-Michigan, Central Michigan-Nebraska, Iowa State-Iowa, Memphis-Purdue, Michigan State-BYU, Northern Illinois-Maryland, Ohio State-Oregon, Penn State-Virginia Tech, Southern Illinois-Wisconsin, Syracuse-Rutgers, Tennessee Tech-Minnesota, Tulane-Northwestern, UConn-Illinois, Western Kentucky-Indiana

Week 3: Air Force-Purdue, Appalachian State-Wisconsin, Arkansas State-Michigan, Ball State-Indiana, Bowling Green-Illinois, Buffalo-Ohio State, Central Michigan-Northwestern, Maryland-West Virginia, Rutgers-Temple, San Jose State-Penn State, South Dakota State-Nebraska, Toledo-Michigan State

Week 4: BYU-Minnesota, Cincinnati-Nebraska, Indiana-UConn, Miami (FL) – Michigan State, Northern Illinois-Iowa, Northwestern-Penn State, Purdue-Boston College

Week 5: Wisconsin-Notre Dame (set for Green Bay, WI)

So those are some pretty significant losses, including for TV. The games with Big Ten teams at home would presumably have been on either Fox or ESPN networks/ABC (with Fox having priority), while the Wisconsin-Notre Dame game was set for NBC. The other games with Big Ten teams on the road would have been on ESPN/ABC (ACC) or ESPN/ABC or Fox (Pac-12 and Big 12).

These are also notable losses for the smaller-conference or independent teams. The smaller-conference teams in particular usually get a fair amount of money to play road games against Power 5 opponents. And so that loss can have a significant impact on their athletic department budgets. Here’s an illustration of that for one MAC team, Bowling Green:

And it’s probably not just the Big Ten. There’s already talk that the Pac-12 and the ACC may follow suit, which makes sense; if they didn’t, the teams that had set up plans to play Big Ten teams would be in a tough spot. But it’s still notable to see that:

So it seems pretty likely at this point that if there is college football this fall (which in itself remains a giant if), it will be on shorter, conference-only schedules. And that could lead to some dramatic changes for networks, teams, and the sport as a whole, both for this year and for future scheduling. Will these out-of-conference games get made up? Will they be pushed to 2021 and bump those games and everything after them back a year? Or will they just be written off?

But beyond that, it’s worth noting that there are absolutely zero guarantees that any sort of college football will happen this fall, even in conference-only games. For example, Ohio State shut down all the voluntary workouts on its campus Wednesday in multiple sports, including football, following COVID-19 testing results. (They didn’t release details on those results.) And Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith didn’t sound too optimistic Thursday:

We’ll see where things go in the coming days. But for now, the Big 10 out-of-conference schedule is gone.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.