Frustrated parents of football players at Ohio State and Iowa are speaking out against the Big Ten’s decision to postpone the football season to the spring, questioning the process and the conference leadership, and are asking the league for further consideration and input.
Iowa parents on Friday hand-delivered a letter to the conference headquarters in Chicago, requesting a meeting with commissioner Kevin Warren to ask questions “and get direct answers and to have a say in the decision-making process.”
In the letter, released on Twitter on Friday, the Iowa parents asked the Big Ten what changed within the six days when the conference announced its schedule, and on Tuesday when it became the first Power 5 conference to push its fall sports to the spring if possible. The Iowa parents asked that the Big Ten respond no later than Aug. 19.
“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,” the letter stated. “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.”
It’s a process that ends with the university presidents, as they have the final say in each conference as to whether schools can proceed with fall sports in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Warren did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ESPN, but has said repeatedly the decision was made based on the advice of the league’s medical experts and in the best interests of the student-athletes’ health and wellness.
“You look at the overall numbers during this global pandemic, as far as caseloads, they have not decreased; they have gone up. Trends have not improved; they’ve become worse,” Warren had previously told ESPN. “You add that up and you’re getting ready to go into more formal practice, it’s just a level of not only concerns but unknown risks. When you’re dealing with the health of human beings, it’s serious.”
Multiple Ohio State parents reached out to ESPN on Friday, expressing both confusion and outrage about the Big Ten’s abrupt pivot from practicing to pausing.
“It’s unacceptable,” said Corey Teague, father of Ohio State running back Master Teague. “It’s something that needs more explanation because when you go in a certain direction and days later it changes, and no one has spoken to anyone else, and players weren’t able to be involved in this decision, and the protocols that were put in by Ohio State were very successful. It’s unfortunate and I don’t know if it’s shortsightedness there, lack of leadership, but it’s definitely something that needs to be rectified and more dialogue needs to happen. It’s just a very messy situation and we want to clean it up.”
Ohio State parent Kristina Miller, the mother of sophomore offensive lineman Harry Miller, wrote her own letter to Warren, telling him, “They have done everything right, and you Sir, have failed them.” Miller said she first found out the season was postponed through the media, and there was no communication from the Big Ten office.
“There’s been no communication, no transparency, nothing to say what has changed in the last five days that we give you your schedule and we cancel the season within five days,” she told ESPN. “There’s been nothing.”
Miller suggested that instead of having the entire conference surrender the fall season, individual teams should have the choice to play or not, nothing that Ohio State’s president-elect, Kristina Johnson, and athletic director Gene Smith were in favor of moving forward with the fall plans.
“Similar to players having the opportunity to opt out if they choose, we feel like our teams should have that opportunity,” Miller said. “We’re at a different level of Rutgers and Maryland. I don’t mean that to sound pompous, it’s just true. Our guys want to play. They want to play and they should have the opportunity to play if they want. They shouldn’t be subjected to this vote, yes or no. Well, if you guys don’t want to play, opt out. Opt your team out. Let the six teams that want to play, play.”