It has been almost a month since the Big Ten announced the postponement of fall sports, and for many, the fight for an explanation is still ongoing.
A flurry of letters have been addressed to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren in the last 30 days, asking for insight into the postponement decision and calling for a change of heart. From parents to lawmakers, an effort has been made to get Warren to release information into the decision, and the effort has yielded a single open letter.
The most recent attempt to correspond with Warren and the Big Ten came from lawmakers throughout six Midwest states, including Senate Majority Leader Matt Huffman of Ohio.
The Sept. 8 letter addressed to Warren called for the Big Ten to reconsider its Aug. 11 decision to postpone the football season.
“After hearing from many concerned students, parents and coaches, we have been encouraged to convey our support for their wishes and our responsibility to defend the students’ long-term academic and career interests,” the letter reads.
The letter noted that Big Ten student-athletes have been placed in a disadvantageous position with other conferences beginning to play their football seasons.
Going on to describe efforts put into health and safety protocols in the Big Ten, the letter noted that the decision to postpone was stripping the student-athletes of a “vital part of student life” and making them “less marketable to future employers.”
“All of the unprecedented planning and teamwork was an unmitigated success, and yet somehow the conference has decided to cast it aside anyway,” the letter reads.
The letter sent by the lawmakers was the latest in a long line of letters and protests that have called for response and explanation from the Big Ten.
Aug. 15- Football Parents at Ohio State begin the #LetThemPlay movement and begin to call for correspondence with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren
In its first letter released to commissioner Kevin Warren, the Football Parents at Ohio State called for the reinstatement of the 10-game conference-only season, more transparency in the cancellation process and for a response no later than Aug. 19.
“We believe the August 11 decision was made in haste,” the letter reads. “As we have continued to learn nationally about COVID-19, our understanding and protocols in dealing with this virus have also continued to evolve. In the best interests of our players, we strongly believe the Big Ten should re-evaluate its decision.”
The letter also called for a Zoom call between the commissioner, parents and senior players along with a detailed plan that all Big Ten teams would be required to follow.
Aug. 16- Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields creates a petition directed toward the Big Ten and Warren
Five days after the Big Ten’s decision to postpone, Ohio State junior quarterback Justin Fields created a petition with a message addressed to Warren.
“We, the football players of the Big Ten, together with the fans and supporters of college football, request that the Big Ten Conference immediately reinstate the 2020 football season,” the campaign reads.
The campaign expressed a belief in the safety protocols to limit COVID-19 concerns. It also called for the option to play to be left in the hands of the Big Ten players and teams without risk of being penalized for their decisions.
“We believe that we should have the right to make decisions about what is best for our health and our future,” the campaign reads. “Don’t let our hard work and sacrifice be in vain.”
At the time of publication, the petition had eclipsed 302,000 signatures.
Aug. 16-19- Michigan, Illinois and Nebraska football parents join Ohio State in trying to gain correspondence with the league office
In the days following FPAOS’ initial letter, other football parent groups joined in the fight.
Nebraska’s parent group was the first to join in the fight, releasing a letter on Aug. 17 and hand delivering it to the Big Ten office on the next day. The Cornhusker parents challenged the Big Ten and Warren’s quick reversal of releasing a schedule and canceling the season just a week later.
“On August 5, you stated that you would feel comfortable allowing your own son to play in the Big Ten this season with the medical protocols that have been put in place, which we parents unilaterally support,” the letter reads. “Six days later you made a clear about-face. We are simply asking for transparency in why that decision changed so quickly.”
On that same day, the University of Michigan football parents released a letter of their own, in which they called for a meeting with both Warren and University President Mark Schlissel to discuss the rationale of canceling the season and, in Schlissel’s case, why he voted against having a season.
The Wolverine parents expressed complete trust in their sons to make the correct decision regarding playing if given the choice to play out a fall season.
“More importantly, we have complete trust in our sons and their ability to determine what’s best for them,” the letter reads. “As football players, they understand risk. As young men, they understand the consequences of their decisions.”
Two days later, University of Illinois parents joined in on the calls for transparency with a letter of their own.
While acknowledging the dangers of the virus, the parents called for the Big Ten to, at least, give their sons the choice to play out a season.
“We don’t want to make light of the seriousness of COVID, but it isn’t going away,” the letter reads. “If our sons are willing to assume the risk and play the game they love, why not give them the chance?”
Aug. 19- Warren releases letter to the Big Ten community
In an open letter, Warren addressed the Big Ten community and shared additional information concerning the decision to postpone.
Warren shared his understanding of the value of sports to student-athletes and the Big Ten community, but also expressed that the decision was final.
“The vote by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) was overwhelmingly in support of postponing fall sports and will not be revisited,” Warren said in the letter.
Warren said the decision was based on “sound feedback, guidance and advice from medical experts.”
Stating that financial decisions did not impact the decision, Warren cited medical uncertainty and unknown health risks of COVID-19 as the core influence behind the decision to postpone.
The letter also announced the creation of the Return to Competition Task Force, consisting of COP/C members, athletic directors, head coaches and other members of the Big Ten community.
Warren said the task force will evaluate different winter and spring models to determine a plan for the return of fall sports.
Warren expressed that decisions will be made with the student-athletes’ health at the forefront.
“We appreciate the passion of the Big Ten community and will harness that energy towards providing the best possible experience for all Big Ten student-athletes,” Warren said.
Aug. 26- Big Ten Parents United letter is sent to Warren
A week after Warren addressed the Big Ten community through an open letter, 11 Big Ten parent associations came together to form Big Ten Parents United and pen a letter to Warren.
“We are extremely disappointed in your August 19, 2020 correspondence in response to widespread requests for an explanation,” the letter reads.
The letter expressed a “total lack of confidence” in Warren’s ability to lead and communicate with the Big Ten community.
The group also called for three things: transparency, a parent forum and future plans.
Calling on documents and records of the meeting to postpone the fall season as well as a forum between the different parent organizations and Warren in hopes of receiving answers to posed questions, the group looked to find transparency in what has transpired.
Looking to the future, Big Ten Parents United called for more details on the Return to Competition Task Force, how the task force will operate and what criteria it will use to determine the best time for a season.
“This correspondence is intended to convey the total lack of confidence in the Big Ten Conference’s leadership, specifically the lack of planning, collaboration and/or communication,” the letter reads.
Sept. 1- President Trump and Warren hold conversation about reinstating season
Following weeks of parent requests for contact with the league office, Warren finally opened a dialogue, not with parents or student-athletes, but with President Donald Trump.
In what Trump described as a “productive conversation,” the president and commissioner discussed immediately reinstating the season.
“It would be good (great!) for everyone – Players, Fans, Country. On the one yard line!” Trump said in a tweet Sept. 1.
In a response to the tweet, the Big Ten confirmed that the conversation did take place but failed to say if they were truly nearing a reinstatement of the season.
“The Big Ten Conference and its Return to Competition Task Force, on behalf of the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C), are exhausting every resource to help student-athletes get back to playing the sports they love, at the appropriate time, in the safest and healthiest way possible,” the Big Ten said in a press release.