After a sudden and unpredictable shift in optimism within 72 hours, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren canceled football, with little evidence to back up his decision. Now parents of affected students are demanding justification as to why Warren reached this verdict.
After Dr. Venk Murthy, a University of Michigan cardiologist, questioned the evidence the Big Ten used to cancel its season, parents of Ohio State, Penn State, and Iowa football players have submitted a letter to the Division I conference. In it, parents demanded the conference reverse course and play the 2020 season. The letter advocates for full transparency about the data that led to the decision, reinstatement of the original schedule the league released Aug. 5, and a call with Warren.
These parents have every right to ask questions, especially since Warren’s own son is set to play a full slate of games this fall at Mississippi State. Warren is effectively telling parents he believes it’s too risky for players of his own conference to play football this fall but perfectly safe for his own son to continue his NCAA career. Parents aren’t buying it.
Big Ten Is Killing Student Opportunities
All players want is the option to decide their own fates, the same option the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 are giving their players. It’s no surprise the reaction from Big Ten players was swift. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields has created a petition, which had more than 200,000 signatures in less than 24 hours, requesting the Big Ten immediately reinstate the 2020 season.
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If Fields were smart, he would realize the #WeWantToPlay movement isn’t enough to persuade the Big Ten to have a season. No number of waivers can convince university presidents to redirect on a football season, which has been about restricting player empowerment from the get-go. These presidents have secured the moral high ground using questionable medical research with the help of a willing media.
What will change the momentum of this conversation, however, is putting presidents on the defensive over denying minority opportunity. Athletes making this about a lack of economic opportunities, especially for minority players, is something no college president wants to push back on.
Football is a great equalizer. It provides opportunities, especially for young minorities looking to change their family trajectory, to attend college at greatly reduced cost. After graduation, college football provides opportunity in the business world as well as the financial and medical fields. No president wants to be seen as suppressing minority opportunities, and players such as Fields spinning the argument this way could change the discussion.
Fields should repeatedly make the point about how canceling sports disenfranchises minority student athletes. If white activist students can gather in large settings on campus, football players should be able to play a game that provides economic and social opportunity.
The Big Ten circus and its ringleader Warren are anything but the greatest show right now. They’re an unmitigated PR disaster with a leader who wants to hide in the corner without suffering from any of the consequences of a premature decision.
Everyone Else Is Playing Football
Meanwhile, the SEC announced Tuesday it’s planning not only to play but to allow fans in the stands. In Ohio this week, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state is moving forward with all high school sports.
Ohio State’s football team physician, Dr. James Borchers of the Wexner Medical Center, was one of the main medical health experts from whom the state sought advice. As of today in Ohio, high school football is allowed, NFL football is allowed, and even the University of Cincinnati Bearcats can play — but not Ohio State University. If it’s safe enough in Ohio for the NFL to play, it should be safe enough for any football team with the proper health protocols in place.
This absurd logic has allowed multiple Big Ten campuses to reopen, along with cafeterias, dorms, and even intramural sports at Michigan State University. Somehow, that same logic won’t allow competitive football games in a conference with standardized, COVID-19 testing protocols for freakishly healthy 18- to 22-year-old men. It’s time for the media to start asking what the Big Ten is thinking.
The Big Ten dumpster fire continued to get hotter this week when Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour spoke publicly. “It’s unclear to me whether there was a vote or not,” Barbour said, concerning a formal vote among presidents and chancellors. “No one’s ever told me there was.”
With the new details emerging over the weekend about an FDA-approved, rapid saliva test for COVID-19, which could be a game-changer for the Big Ten and Pac-12, it is even more critical that coaches, players, and parents have a fair and open discussion instead of a rushed and one-sided decision. According to Zach Lowe of ESPN.com, these tests are more rapid and have more accuracy than the standard nasal swab tests. If this test lives up to the hype, the Big Ten and Pac-12 should reverse course.
You probably never thought the biggest advocate for the Big Ten having a season would be a former SEC quarterback — but then again, this year is mad.