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A large tarp covers Dooley Field in Sanford Stadium on Saturday, April 18, 2020, on the University of Georgia's campus in Athens, Georgia. The annual G-Day football scrimmage was canceled this year due to complications arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

To better control its operations this fall, the Big Ten Conference announced on Thursday that fall sports teams will compete only against other Big Ten competition if seasons begin as planned. 

In its statement, the conference acknowledged that upcoming seasons remain tentative depending on COVID-19 developments, and it may forgo athletics "to ensure the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes should the circumstances so dictate."

The Big Ten also announced on Thursday that student-athletes will maintain their scholarships if they decide not to compete in the fall. 

While the Ivy League was the first Division I conference to eliminate all fall sports, the Big Ten was the first Football Bowl Subdivision conference to offer a concrete scheduling plan since the NCAA waived both its minimum attendance policy and its policy mandating five home FBS matchups on May 20.

The Big Ten's decision was less about travel concerns — its members range from Rutgers in New Jersey to Penn State to Minnesota — and more about logistics. The move allows it to make mid-season changes on a dime without interference or objection from out-of-conference opponents.

Other conferences may follow the Big Ten's lead in the absence of wider-reaching NCAA protocols. If the SEC enforced a similar mandate, Georgia's current 2020 schedule would be reduced by a third, eliminating matchups against Virginia in its Mercedes-Benz Stadium season opener, East Tennessee State, UL-Monroe and Georgia Tech on Nov. 28. 

With some reports suggesting the ACC will be the next conference to go in-conference only, the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry may be off the books in short order. 

Luckily for football fans, such a change would still allow the Bulldog's Sept. 19 contest against Alabama and seven other regularly-scheduled SEC opponents.

Neither the SEC nor UGA have issued guidelines surrounding fall schedules or scholarship statuses as head coach Kirby Smart and the team prepare to move out of the voluntary workout period next week.

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