Big Ten plans to eliminate nonconference football games this year

The league is considering a 10-game, league-only schedule and could wipe out nonconference games in other sports.

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The Big Ten will eliminate nonconference football games this season.

The Big Ten will eliminate nonconference football games this season.

Jacob Hannah/Lincoln Journal Star via AP

The highly anticipated home-and-home matchup between college football goliaths Alabama and Ohio State is still on.

Then again, the first game isn’t scheduled until Sept. 18, 2027, in Columbus, Ohio, so the Big Ten and Southeastern conferences have time on their side to make sure they can pull it off.

Anything before that? Nothing is promised.

Thursday was just a reminder of that.

The Big Ten — and soon the SEC, according to sources — will pause nonconference schedules for all sports, including football, this fall in an effort to eliminate extra long-distance travel some schools were planning to take.

In a follow-the-money business such as college football, if the Big Ten and SEC opt to play conference games only, expect all the Power 5 conferences to follow suit.

The unknown is what will happen to annual nonconference rivalries, such as Florida-Florida State and South Carolina-Clemson, and how many conference games will be added.

Multiple outlets reported the Big Ten and SEC would like to make sure each football team plays at least 10 games, but the scheduling would have to be figured out.

Meanwhile, the economic fallout for smaller-conference teams that count on big paydays by traveling to places such as Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or Ann Arbor, Michigan, to take on powerhouse teams will be monumental.

The economic hit the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked on college sports already is changing the landscape moving forward.

Need evidence? Stanford announced Wednesday it is cutting 11 varsity sports programs. That news came on the same day that the Ivy League suspended all fall sports and that the Atlantic Coast Conference announced no fall sports would start before Sept. 1.

Colleges across the country have been cutting lower-revenue sports for the last few months, and it’s only going to get worse.

The Big Ten pulling the plug on nonconference games this fall affects 36 scheduled opponents, including 28 from the Football Bowl Subdivision.

That little ‘‘scrimmage’’ Ohio State likes to run every September against a Mid-American Conference school? Gone.

This season it was against Bowling Green, which also was counting on a paycheck from its visit to Illinois in September.

Northern Illinois, Ball State, BYU, Central Michigan and Connecticut were scheduled to play two Big Ten teams this fall, too.

As far as the marquee Big Ten games that are off the schedule, how about Michigan at Washington on Sept. 5 and Ohio State at Oregon on Sept. 12? Nationally, cross Alabama-USC and Oklahoma-Tennessee off the docket.

That’s where the damage starts.

Where does it end for college sports? Well, 2027 in Columbus can’t come soon enough.

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