by Jim Bizzerd
Big 10 fallout
Last week the Big 10 Conference decided to postpone fall sports, which obviously includes football and the Big 10 is arguably the richest college football conference in the country. As expected, the Pac 12 followed suit by postponing its fall seasons. There doesn’t seem to be much fallout from the left coast conference, but there is plenty of complaining emanating from the Big 10.
The complaining began even before there was an official decision not to play. Several Big 10 football coaches made very public comments when it was learned the Big 10 presidents were leaning toward postponing the season. Some coaches vowed to find a way to play despite what the conference decided.
The Big 10 process was interesting to watch for this outsider. Reports leaked over last weekend that a decision not to play was reached. There were even a few reports saying the vote was 12-2. When the backlash immediately began, a conference spokesman said no vote had been taken, but a decision would be forthcoming. The thought was that the conference leaders would backtrack, but they didn’t and officially declared the fall seasons postponed.
For what it’s worth, there seems to be an agreement by those around the sport of football that any idea of a spring football season won’t work, so this decision essentially amounts to a cancellation.
Interestingly, the decision itself has come under scrutiny not only by coaches, but players, parents and even an athletic director is in the dark. “It’s unclear whether there was ever a vote or not,” Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said Monday during a Zoom call.
Some players have spoken out to the point Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields started a MoveOn.org online petition with the hashtag #WeWantToPlay. As of Monday afternoon, the petition had 250,000 signatures.
Many parents of players are similarly outraged, not so much by the decision, but its timing. “The decision just came too quick,” said the mother of Nittany Lions tight end Pat Freiermuth. “I totally believe in medical experts and think we should be listening to them – if the right thing to do medically is not to play, I’m fine with that. But to go from releasing the schedule to the start of practice to stopping the season, without explanation, is just wrong.”
First year Big10 commissioner Kevin Warren has come under increasing criticism for his leadership on the matter. Parents representing half of the Big 10 schools are calling on the conference to reverse its decision. At least some of those parents have asked for an in-person meeting with Warren in hopes of receiving a more detailed explanation.
So far all systems are a go for the Big 12, SEC and ACC to play football this fall. The decision of those conferences to play only intensifies the heat on Warren and the Big 10. The flip side is if the season ultimately gets scrapped for everyone, the Big 10 will be off the hook.