Big Ten will not revisit decision to postpone fall sports, commissioner says

The Big Ten commissioner on Wednesday published an open letter explaining the conference’s decision to suspend fall 2020 sports until at least the spring. In the letter, Kevin Warren said the vote by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors to suspend the season “was overwhelmingly in support of postponing fall sports and will not be revisited.”

The letter was published a few days after several officials from Big Ten universities said it was “unclear” whether or not a formal vote was ever taken, CBS Sports reports

“It’s unclear whether there was ever a vote or not,” Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said Monday on a Zoom call. 

Last week, University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel said, “We didn’t vote, per se. It’s a deliberative process where we came to a decision together.” She noted that she fully supports the decision, however.

In Wednesday’s letter, Warren outlined the main reasons the conference decided to postpone the season, a decision that was announced just six days after the football schedule had been released. Among the chief concerns, Warren noted “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.” The letter also points out that as more students return to campus for the start of the fall semester, “spread to student-athletes could reintroduce infection into our athletics community.”

The letter also raises concerns over what recovering from a COVID-19 infection actually looks like. It mentions the long-term effects on the heart are still unknown, but due to the possibility that those with even mild cases can suffer heart damage, “the uncertain risk was unacceptable at this time.”

Finally, Warren said the conference had concerns over contact tracing and adequate testing:

  • 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.

Warren faced considerable pressure from players and their parents after fall sports were postponed. Several parents have posted on social media that they are planning to travel to Chicago to protest the decision outside Big Ten headquarters Friday.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields started a petition calling for the season to go ahead as planned. As of Wednesday evening, the petition had garnered nearly the 300,000 signatures it needed.

In the letter, Warren said the conference remains committed to finding a way to play fall sports “as soon as it is safe to do so.” He said the Big Ten has put together a task force to come up with a safe way to resume competition in the future. 

The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced this month that fall sports would be postponed. The Big 12, SEC and ACC — which make up the remainder of the Power Five conferences — all plan on going ahead with with fall competition.

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