They’re not changing their minds.
The Big Ten (specifically the conference’s Commissioner, Kevin Warren) has published “An Open Letter to the Big 10 Community” confirming the conference’s decision to postpone all fall sports, including football. This time, he didn’t leave any wiggle room:
“The vote by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors was overwhelmingly in support of postponing fall sports and will not be revisited. The decision was thorough and deliberative, and based on sound feedback, guidance and advice from medical experts,” Warren wrote in the letter.
The letter was published to the conference’s official website Wednesday evening, following days of unrest and confusion among the conference and the sport. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields created a #WeWantToPlay petition last Sunday. Since then, it’s received over 283,800 signatures. Additionally, several parents of football players from multiple Big Ten schools have spoken out against the decision. Some came forward in a report for Sports Illustrated, while others sent messages directly to Commissioner Warren.
In Wednesday’s letter, Warren lays out several reasons for the Big Ten’s decision, specifically saying “financial considerations did not influence the COP/C decision, as the postponement will have enormous adverse financial implication.” Here is what did contribute, according to Warren:
- Transmission rates continue to rise at an alarming rate with little indication from medical experts that our campuses, communities or country could gain control of the spread of the virus prior to the start of competition.
- As our teams were ramping up for more intense practices, many of our medical staffs did not think the interventions we had planned would be adequate to decrease the potential spread even with very regular testing.
- As the general student body comes back to campus, spread to student-athletes could reintroduce infection into our athletics community.
- There is simply too much we do not know about the virus, recovery from infection, and longer-term effects. While the data on cardiomyopathy is preliminary and incomplete, the uncertain risk was unacceptable at this time.
- Concerns surrounding contact tracing still exist, including the inability to social distance in contact sports pursuant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. While risk mitigation processes (e.g., physical distancing, face coverings, proper hygiene, etc.) can be implemented across campus for the student body population, it became clear those processes could not be fully implemented in contact sports.
- With the start of full-contact practices and competitions, it became increasingly clear that contact tracing and quarantining would risk frequent and significant disruptions to the practice and competition calendar.
- Accurate and widely available rapid testing may help mitigate those concerns, but access to accurate tests is currently limited.
- Significant concerns also exist regarding the testing supply chain, generally, for many of our institutions.
Still, the letter says the conference is committed to the word “postpone,” rather than “cancel.” There is still hope, in the Commissioner’s eyes, for a winter or spring season. The conference has created a “Return to Competition Task Force” to plan for the return of fall sports competition as soon as possible.
Kevin Warren to @YahooSports: "I’ll be the first one to admit, I was not as clear as I should have been. That’s why I felt it was important that I write this letter to explain it."
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) August 19, 2020
“In evaluating winter/spring models, we will explore many factors including the number of football games that can reasonably be played from a health perspective in a full calendar year while maintaining a premier competitive experience for our student-athletes culminating in a Big Ten Championship,” Warren writes. “The Big Ten Conference will continue to collect feedback from student-athletes, families, and other constituents and remains in active discussions with its television partners regarding all future plans.”
The letter can be read in its entirety by clicking here.