Canceling the Big Ten season in its entirety would have assuredly starved schools of tens of millions of dollars. Now some of that money could be delayed instead, causing new pain on campuses but perhaps arresting a graver economic calamity for college athletics.
Still, in a statement on Tuesday, leaders at Wisconsin, which had suggested it could miss out on up to $100 million without a football season, said there would be “a major financial impact on not only our athletic department, but the many businesses and members of our community who rely on Badger events to support their livelihoods.”
In the statement, Rebecca M. Blank, Wisconsin’s chancellor, and Barry Alvarez, its athletic director, warned that there were “many obstacles to overcome” for fall sports to be played early in 2021.
In addition to football, the Big Ten’s decision affects men’s and women’s cross-country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball.
Sports officials have spent months considering whether it would be feasible to hold a football season in 2020, with deliberations frequently hobbled by the sport’s governance system. Although the N.C.A.A. has some power over football, it does not have absolute authority, and so decisions about the precise course of a season were left to individual conferences — each with its own concerns, including media deals, constituencies and levels of risk tolerance.
Some conferences, like the Ivy League, canceled their season without ever publicly pursuing an alternative. The Mid-American Conference said it would not play games this fall but would try in the spring. And on Monday, the Mountain West Conference said it had settled on an “indefinite postponement” of all of its fall sports.
In recent weeks, the Power 5 conferences scaled back their plans for the season while they harbored some hopes that their teams would be able to play this fall.