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What Big Ten's cancellation of nonconference games means for CMU

In an effort to play sports in the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Big Ten Conference made the move to cancel all nonconference games for the Fall 2020 semester. 

Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic reported the move and all summer workouts will continue to be voluntary. All athletes who opt out of playing this season will retain their scholarships and standing on the team. 

The Big Ten competes in seven sports — football, men's and women's cross country, field hockey, men's and women's soccer and volleyball — in the fall. 

In a statement released on July 9, the Big Ten said: "By limiting competition to other Big Ten institutions, the Conference will have the greatest flexibility to adjust its own operations throughout the season and make quick decisions in real-time based on the most current evolving medical advice and the fluid nature of the pandemic."

While the Big Ten is the first Power Five conference to announce the move, Auerbach reported multiple industry insiders expect a similar move from the Pac-12 Conference soon. 

Central Michigan was supposed to play two Big Ten teams — Nebraska and Northwestern — in football this season. Football was the only fall sport at CMU with an updated schedule when it was released in late-February.

CMU was slated to make $2.15 million from games at Nebraska ($1.3 million) and Northwestern ($850,000) and will not receive that money from the two games.   

Group of Five schools, such as CMU and other Mid-American Conference institutions, rely on those game guarantees to fund their athletic departments. 

According to a Detroit Free Press report, CMU made $1.15 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year from game guarantees, that money accounted for 33.8 percent of the team's revenue. 

As for the MAC, it still plans to play out its nonconference schedule, Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press reported. MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said he was surprised the Big Ten canceled its games. There were 11 games scheduled between MAC and Big Ten teams this season.

“Central Michigan Athletics continues to work with the Mid-American Conference and member institutions on scheduling parameters for all fall sports, “ CMU Athletic Director Michael Alford said in a statement. “We are committed to a model that prioritizes the health and safety of student athletes coaches staff and guests.” 

As it stands, the Chippewas have San Jose State for the season-opener (Sept. 5) and Bryant (FCS, Sept. 26) remaining on the nonconference schedule. Both games are slated to be played in Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

SJSU is located in California, one of the states struggling to contain its COVID-19 outbreak. Bryant is located in Rhode Island, which has seen a decline in recent days of confirmed cases from its peak on May 20, including zero new cases from July 4-6.