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Big Ten commissioner: Decision to postpone football won't be revisited

Rainer Sabin
Detroit Free Press

Petitions by parents and a player movement spearheaded by Ohio State star Justin Fields won't push the Big Ten to reverse its decision to postpone the football season indefinitely.

In a letter published on the conference's website Wednesday, league commissioner Kevin Warren said the focus is now on finding a safe and effective manner to hold fall sports at some point in the winter or spring.

Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren

Coaches, athletic directors and medical personnel will be among the members of a task force assembled to plan a return to competition.

Within the Big Ten community, there is a push to have the season start as early as possible — perhaps as soon as January, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Big Ten postponed fall sports on Aug. 11, six days after releasing a revised football schedule. The move, which was immediately followed by the Pac-12's decision to initiate a similar shutdown, was faced with immediate backlash. Parent groups at Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State and Ohio State formed to express grievances and Fields started an online petition to reinstate the 2020 season. 

"It's really frustrating," Michigan tight end Nick Eubanks said Wednesday on a Zoom call.

From all corners of the internet, there was a demand for answers and a call for transparency.

The outcry stemmed from the ambiguity surrounding a vote among the presidents and chancellors at the league's member schools and how the conference arrived at its decision.

But the Big Ten remained silent for a week before Warren's letter was published at 4:56 p.m. Central time Wednesday.

"While several factors contributed to the decision to postpone the 2020-21 fall sports season, at the core of our decision was the knowledge that there was too much medical uncertainty and too many unknown health risks regarding SARS-CoV-2 infection and its impact on our student-athletes," Warren wrote.

Warren noted that the vote among the leaders of the Big Ten institutions was "overwhelmingly in support of postponing fall sports."

He added that the decision will not be "revisited."

He also explained that many of the medical staffs did not think that the mitigation measures instituted would reduce the potential spread even if testing was adequate. There was also uncertainty about the long-term effects of the novel coronavirus, including complications related to the heart. Other concerns were connected to the return of students to campuses around the conference and inherent risks associated with a contact sport like football.

"Financial considerations did not influence the ...decision, as the postponement will have enormous adverse financial implications," Warren wrote. "We understand the passion of the many student-athletes and their families who were disappointed by the decision, but also know there are many who have a great deal of concern and anxiety regarding the pandemic."

Contact Rainer Sabin at rsabin@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Big Ten newsletter