Iowa Football

Iowa football parents asking for answers from Big Ten

Parents unhappy with Big Ten shutting down football season

Iowa football players greet family and friends on the team's practice field following the final 2019 spring practice. (T
Iowa football players greet family and friends on the team’s practice field following the final 2019 spring practice. (The Gazette)

Parents of University of Iowa football players have sent a letter to the Big Ten Conference questioning the decision to cancel fall athletics for 2020 and asking for transparency on how the choice was made.

Stuart Duncan of Charlotte, N.C., the father of Hawkeye kicker Keith Duncan, said 181 parents participated in Zoom video conferencing Wednesday and Thursday. They formulated up the letter Thursday night.

The letter, directed to Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren and the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, was capped by the following requests:

• A meeting with commissioner and committee members with meaningful and thorough explanations to a group of representatives that include parents, players and coaches.

• To be able to ask questions and get direct answers and to have a say in the decision-making process.

• To be able to review a full action plan including protocols and safety measures.

• To respond to us no later than end of business on August 19.

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“Phil Spiewak (father of Iowa long snapper Austin Spiewak of Rolling Meadows, Ill.) delivered it,” Duncan said. “The commissioner wasn’t there, but they promised to hand-deliver it to him. We’ll see what happens between now and the 19th

Here is the letter:

“On August 5, the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors approved plans and medical protocols to support the announced 10-game, conference-only football schedule. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren followed that up by saying ‘I have a son who’s a football student-athlete in the SEC at Mississippi State. And, so, I’ve asked myself as a father, would I be comfortable for him to participate in the Big Ten based upon the testing policies, protocols and procedures we have in place? And as of today, the answer is yes.’ Six days later, Commissioner Warren and Council of Presidents and Chancellors canceled fall sports competition. What changed?

“In a statement issued by the league on August 11, the blame was placed on the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Disease and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee citing ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Morton Schapiro, Chair of Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors stated ‘Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff.’

“If that is indeed the case, how is it safe to bring students back to campus? Why is it okay to have campus intramural sports and social gatherings? The risk factor being cited as the primary issue is a cardiac condition called myocarditis, which has nothing to do with athletics. Everyone testing positive MAY have an increased risk of this condition and the CDC shows just over 3 percent of infected people to date have an issue. Dr. Andy Peterson, Iowa’s team physician, states, ‘There are other viruses that cause myocarditis, like wintertime flu and things like that.’

“Football players, as well as all athletes of all contact sports, are well aware of the risk involved. They are educated on those risks and accept the consequences of those risks when they step on the field. Risks such as paralysis, infectious disease, cardiovascular and respiratory issues are listed by the CDC. Further risk include concussions that lead to depression, anxiety, aggression, personalty changes, increased risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, CTE and other brain disorders. Yet the individuals accepting those risks — our sons — were never consulted, heard from, or even considered in the Big Ten’s decision to cancel the season. No medical findings or opinions of experts have ever been shared.

“The fact that the Big Ten and the Council of Presidents and Chancellors made this decision with no input from those actually assuming these risk is appalling. The lack of unity, strategic planning, leadership and communication are why we are in the position that we are currently in. The unwillingness to provide transparent health information and the perceived hypocrisy of allowing the players to be exposed to some long-term life altering risks, seems to be acceptable.

“Exposing the players to potential risk of COVID-19, risks they are already exposed to with the flu, is unacceptable to their school and conference to have this taken away from them in behind-closed-door meetings and still continue to expose them and all students and staff to the same risks is infuriating — and sets a precedent that is completely unacceptable. The Big Ten’s lack of communication and leadership is offensive.

“There still is time to do this correctly — to involve the Athletic Directors, coaches and player representatives. To allow them input, the ability to ask questions, provide medical information allowing the players the opportunity to accept or opt out of said risks, just as they have the opportunity to do with all other risks associated with contact sports. ...

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“As parents of Hawkeye players, we want what is best for our children and their program. We care deeply about player safety as we continue our way through a different world than it was six months ago. The Big Ten had months to develop a strategic plan but instead chose to leave it up to each individual school creating confusion, inconsistency and no plan of action. There is time to fix the wrongdoings and come out as leaders. We strongly encourage the Big Ten to reconsider playing the fall college football season, develop a plan of meaningful action and letting these young adults be included in the decision-making process. We look forward to your prompt response.

“Sincerely, Iowa Hawkeye Football Parents.”

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

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