Last Tuesday, the Big Ten announced its decision to postpone the 2020 football season amid the spreading of COVID-19. The league left more questions than answers and players, parents and coaches from nearly every corner of the conference responded with a call for answers.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren issued a statement saying the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors was “overwhelmingly in support of postponing fall sports and will not be revisited.”
Warren acknowledged that there was a vote, a fact that no one from the league clarified for more than a week. He cited uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and testing as major factors behind the decision.
“The decision was thorough and deliberative, and based on sound feedback, guidance and advice from medical experts,” Warren wrote in a letter headlined “Open letter to the Big Ten community.” “Despite the decision to postpone fall sports, we continue our work to find a path forward that creates a healthy and safe environment for all Big Ten student-athletes to compete in the sports they love in a manner that helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protects both student-athletes and the surrounding communities.”
Warren explained how the league went from announcing a 10-game conference schedule for fall 2020 and then six days later postponing it. With a Sept. 5 start for opening the season, teams needed to moved into a full-contact phase in practice.
“From the beginning, we consistently communicated our commitment to cautiously proceed one day at a time with the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes at the center of our decision-making process,” Warren wrote. “That is why we took simultaneous paths in releasing the football schedule, while also diligently monitoring the spread of the virus, testing, and medical concerns as student-athletes were transitioning to full-contact practice.”
The letter stated financial reasons didn’t factor into the decision. Many parents groups formed among Big Ten programs, including Iowa. The “will not be revisited” came with a plea for understanding.
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“We understand the passion of the many student-athletes and their families who were disappointed by the decision, but also know there are many who have a great deal of concern and anxiety regarding the pandemic,” Warren wrote.
Warren also announced the formation of a “Return to Competition Task Force” for all Big Ten sports. This will include presidents/chancellors, sports medicine and university medical personnel, athletics directors, head coaches, faculty athletics representatives and senior women administrators.
As for what a winter/spring model for sports might look like ...
“We will explore many factors including the number of football games that can reasonably be played from a health perspective in a full calendar year while maintaining a premier competitive experience for our student-athletes culminating in a Big Ten Championship,” Warren wrote. “The Big Ten Conference will continue to collect feedback from student-athletes, families, and other constituents and remains in active discussions with its television partners regarding all future plans.”
Several of the parents groups, including the Iowa contingent, planned to head to the Big Ten offices in Rosemont, Ill., to ask to meet personally with Warren. This was organized by Randy Wade, father of Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade. Randy Wade told ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg that he wasn’t satisfied with the letter and the parents groups still plan to show up in Rosemont.
Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said this to reporters Wednesday: “While a decision has been made by the Big Ten Conference to postpone the fall season, we view this as a temporary delay. ... We are actively planning for the winter and spring seasons for all sports, including the return of football.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday afternoon that the Big Ten was working on an early start to football in the spring semester with the idea of finishing a potential season before the NFL draft.
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