COLUMBUS — Nancy Werner isn’t normally like this.
She’s not typically a big social-media user other than sharing a few stories and photos of a certain standout Ohio State linebacker, and there tends to be long stretches where the mother of Pete Werner doesn’t post anything at all.
But as the frustration, confusion and heartbreak kept mounting, Nancy Werner needed some kind of outlet and simply wanted somewhere she felt her voice could be heard. So, she’s turned more frequently to Twitter, where she certainly isn’t alone as the parents of the Buckeyes have continued to fight for their sons to get a season.
“If you look at my past tweeting, it has never been controversial — and it’s never been this much,” Nancy Werner said with a laugh. “It’s probably really annoying. But I feel like the circumstances have emboldened me a little bit to do things that I normally wouldn’t do. I’m typically a very positive person, and this situation has turned me into a very frustrated person who finds myself doing things I normally wouldn’t do.
“I feel like I’m in a nightmare. It’s a bad dream and I keep hoping that I’m going to wake up.”
Instead, Nancy Werner and the rest of the Ohio State parents woke up on Thursday still trying to wrap their minds around the Big Ten’s response to their letter and several like it from around the league seeking more information about the decision to postpone the fall season. The explanation still came up short, and it certainly didn’t do much to address one issue in particular that is bothering many parents based on social-media feeds that look a lot like Werner’s.
If it’s safe for Kevin Warren’s son Powers to play for Mississippi State or to make the choice to opt into a season this fall, why can’t mine in the Big Ten?
“That is not the only thing,” Werner said. “I mean, Kevin Warren, while I think he pushed his agenda — and honestly, I don’t know because nobody knows anything that happened in that meeting because of all the conflicting stories — it’s so much more than just: Your kid gets to play and mine doesn’t. That is just another part of the huge picture that doesn’t sit well with me. My problem was the haste of everything.
“I can’t understand why they couldn’t just back off a little bit and talk about this, get more information from all these conflicting medical opinions — and actually talk to everyone impacted. We’re all smart people, let’s table this, push things back. In the meantime, a lot more information came out. Of course his kid getting to play and my kid not getting to play doesn’t sit well with me. The more I hear about it, the more I feel like my son and a lot of others got caught in a situation that now I’m questioning.”
The answers haven’t exactly been flowing freely from Big Ten headquarters, and even the attempt to address them in an open letter on Wednesday night didn’t do much to really clarify the situation.
Warren followed up by granting a handful of interviews to select outlets on Wednesday, but he has still not done a full press conference with Big Ten media members. And he certainly hasn’t granted an audience with players and family members that was requested by Ohio State’s parents association, which is why there will still be a group led by Randy Wade showing up in Chicago at his office on Friday.
“The thing about it is the kids made a lot of sacrifices since COVID started, from being home at home and the challenges there all the way back to the things they had to do their whole life working for this moment,” Randy Wade, the father of likely first-round NFL Draft pick Shaun Wade, said. “So, to take it away over one weekend, we feel like it’s not right. We feel like they needed to slow things down, rethink and still give these kids a chance to live out their dream.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about Shaun. It’s about all the kids that are out there waiting on this moment. You can’t get this moment back. Once you say no, you can’t get this moment back. College football is some of the best moments of your life, and to take it away in a weekend, we feel like that’s insane. Let’s throttle back and try to figure it out.”
Warren made clear he has no intention of doing so at this point, reiterating that he and the school presidents won’t be reconsidering the postponement.
But that doesn’t mean Ohio State and its passionate support system are done with the conversation that produced this decision. And it’s not going to get any easier for Warren to move on with a discussion about a winter season if his son is playing in September.
“As a family, we’ve had many difficult discussions,” Warren told Sports Illustrated. “You don’t mix family issues with work issues.”
When the home issue has as much in common with the professional one, it only seems reasonable that there would be useful information to apply in both situations. And whenever Warren decides to emerge and face the people impacted by the Big Ten decision, he’s almost certainly going to need a better answer than that.
“It’s going to really, really bother me if things go as planned and I’m sitting there watching Kevin Warren’s son play,” Werner said. “Yes, it’s going to bother me. But it’s so much more than that. I know it’s not fair to look at it that way, but it’s going to be part of it, for sure.
“What he’s telling me is that Ohio State can’t make our players as safe as they can in the SEC, and I don’t agree with that. When you tell me that your family has faced a tough decision or that he’s an adult and can decide for himself. Well, my son is 22. [Warren] got to decide, and my kid didn’t. I understand that, but you’re telling me the SEC is running their programs in a way that is safe enough to play, but the Big Ten can’t? That you run? You’re kind of shooting yourself in the foot if you tell me your son is safe enough to play but mine isn’t. Why?
“By saying nothing and not answering our questions, he’s actually made us more skeptical. Trying to protect himself is actually doing the opposite, in my opinion. It has affected so many more people than I think he took time to realize with a hasty decision.”
The Big Ten isn’t going back on it. But the Buckeyes and their parents also aren’t done trying to understand why it was made for them — and what makes their sons different than somebody in the SEC.