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Would be nice if the Big 10 commissioner said something
— Sean Gadson (@SeanG1911) August 18, 2020
The decision is almost certainly not going to change in the Big Ten.
That doesn’t mean the league has done a good enough job explaining how it arrived at such a massive, life-altering conclusion for the players, families and coaches who just had their football seasons ripped away.
Ohio State is starting petitions, writing letters and now planning to have at least one parent fly directly to commissioner Kevin Warren’s office in Chicago in hopes for a face-to-face conversation. Nebraska threatened to leave the league initially. Penn State has wondered aloud if there was even an official vote from school presidents. Michigan and Iowa have both had parents come together to publicly seek a chance for their sons to opt in to a football season.
Boiled down to the most basic request: Many conference members want answers, and the Big Ten hasn’t provided them.
For a league that has historically prided itself on its ability to present a unified front, this is a glaring problem for the Big Ten and its rookie commissioner. And while it certainly took an iron will to pull the plug on a football season, it’s also hard to look at what Warren has done since then and view it as strong leadership.
The television press conference just a week ago provided little insight into why a full cancellation was preferable to a delay, and that’s really where the Big Ten train jumped off the rails. Ohio State, for example, made it repeatedly clear that it was aware there was a decent chance football simply couldn’t be played this season. But the Buckeyes wanted as much time and information as possible before abandoning any plan to do so, and they wound up with neither — less than a week after Warren unveiled a revamped schedule and enthusiastically endorsed the league’s safety protocols.
“I have a son who’s a football student-athlete in the SEC at Mississippi State,” Warren said earlier this month on BTN. “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.
“So I feel comfortable as we sit here today, but it’s a fluid situation. There’s no guarantee that we will have fall sports or football season, but we’re doing everything we possibly can that if we’re so blessed to be able to have fall sports, that things are organized and done in a very methodical and professional manner.”
It’s truly hard to understand what changed in the span of a couple days, since multiple Lettermen Row sources indicated that the decision was made during the Sunday-night meeting that preceded last week’s shutdown. And what’s making it hard for many of the impacted parties to reconcile is why three other leagues still felt it was within reason to keep hope alive, even if it remains unlikely that the Big 12, SEC and ACC will actually be able to play a full season — let alone start it.
The Big Ten presidents and Kevin Warren made a tough call, and they surely did so with the best of intentions. Given what’s happening specifically at North Carolina this week, it won’t be surprising at all if they wind up fully vindicated. Personally, though, delaying and using the flexibility the league itself touted in its schedule appeared to be a far better solution. If it had gone that route, there’s a good chance most of this drama would have been avoided.
Multiple sources around the league have told Lettermen Row that there is little chance of reconsideration of the decision at this point, and two different individuals who would be directly briefed or involved pegged the odds of it happening at “zero” right now. But even if it’s too late to salvage the season, it’s clear that Warren still has work to do to explain why the Big Ten is in this situation.
And he doesn’t have any time to waste as his league is rapidly splintering under his first-year watch.
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