The Big Ten became the first Power Five conference to postpone its fall season because of concerns about competing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move likely will reverberate throughout sports as conferences and universities grapple with the financial fallout of a canceled sports season and the risk of coronavirus breakouts on campuses.

The Big Ten reportedly plans to move its season to the spring.

The Big Ten follows the Mid-American Conference, which announced its postponement of fall sports Saturday with hopes of competing in the spring. The Mountain West as well as Massachusetts and Connecticut, both FBS independents, canceled their falls seasons this week.

The Big Ten was the first to move to a conference-only football season to procure control over scheduling and safety measures.

The conference announced Saturday it had paused full-contact practices as it continued to evaluate the planned steps from moving beyond voluntary workouts that have taken place since June.

Since the Big Ten canceled its men’s basketball conference tournament in March, the question about football in the fall has loomed large. It has raised ethical, legal and health concerns, especially with college football’s large rosters, travel demands and outspoken athletes.

Conferences originally planned to power through with a season, with some coaches downplaying COVID-19 concerns related to competition.

But the possibility of a season continued to erode over the summer, even as conferences devised plans to adjust.

Teams held limited voluntary group workouts with an incremental return to campus by athletes. Many programs ramped up testing, including Illinois, which said it would require daily in-season tests for players.

Last week the Big Ten released its 2020 football schedule, with an opening game on Sept. 3, as did the ACC and SEC.

More than 90 college football teams have reported at least one player testing positive for COVID-19. Illinois recently announced it had 23 athletes, including 18 football players, test positive since June with three active cases. Northwestern paused workouts after one player tested positive and 37 players were quarantined until it was determined the test was a false positive.

Michigan State quarantined its entire team after 16 players tested positive, and Rutgers halted workouts after players reportedly contracted COVID-19 while attending a party, raising the team’s positive cases to 28.

Dozens of college football players began opting out, including high-profile players such as Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons and Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore, who said they would skip the season to focus on the 2021 NFL draft. The Big Ten had at least 12 players choose not to play.

The Big Ten, like the Pac-12 and various universities, has faced pushback from players calling for stricter health guidelines and oversight. A group called College Athlete Unity that said it represents more than 1,000 Big Ten football players published a letter detailing their demands.

The mother of Indiana freshman offensive lineman Brady Feeney posted on Facebook details of her son’s lingering health impacts -- including heart issues -- after he contracted COVID-19.

As Big Ten officials discussed plans in recent days, college coaches and players began a #WeWantToPlay movement.

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(c)2020 the Chicago Tribune

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