Sources: Big Ten letting schools decide when athletes can return

The Big Ten is not expected to make a league-wide announcement on athletes returning to campus, leaving the decision to individual schools, league sources told ESPN on Friday.

The conference will defer to NCAA rulings and guidelines with each campus, state and local area.

Illinois on Friday announced detailed plans for its athletes to return for voluntary activities beginning in mid-June. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told reporters earlier this week that its athletes would begin returning to campus June 8, pending university approval.

After a vote by university presidents, the SEC on Friday made a league-wide announcement that athletes may return for voluntary activities at its 14 campuses beginning June 8.

The Big Ten presidents will meet June 7 and discuss the fall sports season and other major topics, Northwestern president Morton Schapiro, chair of the Big Ten's council of presidents and chancellors, told ESPN last week.

Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman, in a videoconference with reporters Friday, said other Big Ten schools are putting together similar plans for athletes to return for voluntary activities in June.

Whitman said Illini football and men's basketball players would begin returning between June 3 and June 8. Players from the women's basketball, volleyball and soccer teams likely will return in early July.

Whitman anticipates athletes returning in groups of 35-45, beginning with returning athletes and then first-year athletes and transfers. He emphasized that June activities are voluntary and said any athletes who do not wish to participate will have their scholarships protected by the school.

The conference, meanwhile, canceled its Big Ten Football Media Days, which was scheduled to take place July 22-23 in Chicago. The league is looking at alternate dates and format for the 49th annual kickoff luncheon, which includes autograph signings and other events with fans.