Iowa Football

'Frustration, anger, disappointment' - Hawkeye moms and dads question Big Ten

Players' families seek more transparency from conference about football shutdown

Iowa's kicker Keith Duncan (3) celebrates one of his NCAA-leading 29 field goals of last season, this in a Kinnick Stadi
Iowa's kicker Keith Duncan (3) celebrates one of his NCAA-leading 29 field goals of last season, this in a Kinnick Stadium game against Penn State on Oct. 12, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

This was 181 parents of current Iowa football players, participating in video conference sessions this week to share their sentiments about the Big Ten canceling fall sports for 2020 and then drafting a letter to the Big Ten asking for a far more detailed explanation than what the league has given.

“It’s definitely the majority of parents,” said Dawn Beyer of Epworth, the mother of senior Iowa tight end Shaun Beyer.

“We’re not trying to be critical,” said Julie Waggoner of Clive, Hawkeye defensive lineman John Waggoner’s mom. “We’re just seeking information.

“The frustration is evident, but we’re just trying to find information and then have a discussion as to what went wrong or what changed.”

Phil Spiewak of Rolling Meadows, Ill., the father of Iowa long snapper Austin Spiewak, delivered the letter to the Big Ten office in Rosemont, Ill., Friday morning. He was promised it would reach conference commissioner Kevin Warren.

“The thing that’s frustrating for most of us is a lack of reasoning or transparency,” Waggoner said. “And then there’s the fact that there was really no discussion that was public or even inclusive of the people that would be involved.

“That kind of left out a big chunk of people for a small group of individuals to make this decision.”

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So the parents decided to craft their letter to the Big Ten. They told Warren and the presidents and chancellors that they want to be able to ask questions, get direct answers, and have a say in the decision-making process. They asked to be able to review a full action plan including protocols and safety measures. And they want the conference to respond by Aug. 19.

“We don’t understand why it’s OK for Iowa State to play and not Iowa,” Beyer said. “Iowa’s kind of been the gold standard in what we’re doing (with COVID-19 testing and protocols for its athletes).”

Stuart Duncan said “We don’t want people to misunderstand our goal. We’re not sitting here yelling and screaming ‘Play the season or else!’ The goal is simply transparency, information. Take the input, and respect those that are actually assuming a risk.”

He admits he feels “frustration, anger, disappointment. I’m leaning more toward the anger side.”

Duncan, from Charlotte, N.C., is the father of Iowa first-team All-America kicker Keith Duncan. He’s among the many parents who say the Big Ten has been fuzzy about its change of direction.

“They’re kind of laying it at the feet of the heart condition, myocarditis,” Duncan said. “The risk for that condition exists in all viruses like the common flu. It doesn’t have anything to do with athletics. You’re not at a higher or lower risk by shooting a basketball or playing football. A student walking around the campus has the same risk.

“So if it’s such a massive risk in order to shut everything down, why haven’t we done this in the past?”

It was reported multiple Big Ten football players have been diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, after being diagnosed with COVID-19. According to ESPN, that was a reason Big Ten leaders tilted toward calling off the fall sports season after the conference had released a revised, 10-game football schedule less than a week earlier.

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“If you go through CDC guidelines and risks of contact sports,” Duncan said, “the long-term lasting health effects of one concussion and all these other viruses have the same risk factors as COVID. To all of a sudden say ‘We care about players’ safety’ is indirectly saying you didn’t give a damn about player safety up until now. And we want to know why.”

The Big Ten is allowing its teams to hold strength and conditioning sessions and voluntary non-contact practices under the NCAA’s 20-hour rule.

“Why couldn’t we let it ride out another month?” Duncan asked. “None of it makes sense. What magic elixir are they spraying to make it OK to go be a student and fraternities and sororities and the Ped Mall and everything else? You can work out 20 hours a week, but you can’t play for three hours?”

Julie Waggoner is a pediatric nurse practitioner. Her husband, Brian Waggoner, is a pediatrician. They are people of medicine and science.

“We are taking this virus seriously,” Julie Waggoner said. “We’re not claiming to be infectious disease experts, either. But from the research and talking with others and reading the reports that are coming out, we felt comfortable.

“I think we just felt you can’t mitigate all risks in life. Life has risks, football has risks. What we had read as parents, we felt comfortable with the guidelines they had set out and laid forward at Iowa. We’d like the Big Ten to consider pausing the cancellation and reconsider.”

Whether you agree with these people fully, partially or not at all, understand that their sons suddenly have gaping holes in their lives. This is hard.

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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