Air Force’s 2020 football schedule took its first coronavirus-related hit on Thursday, with more changes seeming increasingly inevitable.
The Big Ten announced it would limit fall sports competitions to schools within the conference. This means Air Force’s planned Sept. 19 trip to Purdue will not take place.
“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,” the Big Ten said in a statement.
Air Force was set to earn a $800,000 payout from the game.
"The Air Force Academy is disappointed that our football team will not have the opportunity to play at Purdue this season, in light of today's Big Ten announcement," athletic director Nathan Pine said in a statement. "It's too early to speculate but we will review our options with Purdue on a resolution of the contract and will concurrently evaluate our options with the opening created on our 2020 schedule."
Momentum continues to move in a direction that would make the scheduling question moot. The Big Ten’s announcement came hours after the Atlantic Coast Conference canceled all competitions through Sept. 1 – essentially delaying a further decision until the last minute before its Sept. 2 opening to the football season.
A report from Stadium indicated the ACC was eyeing a conference-only schedule, though it would be ready to assist Notre Dame with any necessary games. The Pac-12 is also considering the change, according to 247Sports.
The Ivy League on Wednesday put all sports on hold until January, wiping out the football season unless it moves to the spring, which remains a possibility.
The Mountain West did not respond to a Thursday request for an update on its plans.
Multiple scenarios remain in play if the Mountain West goes to a conference-only schedule, particularly with questions about the viability of a season for Hawaii and the unknown status of Fresno State, San Jose State and San Diego State, which are part of the California State University system that canceled in-person learning for the upcoming school year. Also, would Army and Navy be exempted from a conference-only plan for Air Force?
The only certainty at this point, as dominoes continue to fall, is that the 2020 season won't take place in the way it was initially planned.