Big Ten's Fall Sports Decision Based On Athlete Safety, Health
The Big Ten "ultimately kept its original course" in canceling its fall football season, and it was the decision "everyone expected the league to make, a move all but telegraphed since Saturday," according to Nicole Auerbach of THE ATHLETIC. However, the decision "wasn't easy, and it clearly wasn't unanimous." First-year Commissioner Kevin Warren "sidestepped questions about the vote from presidents and chancellors, and multiple athletic directors specifically said later on Tuesday that they wanted to delay the start of the fall 2020 season, not postpone it with the hopes of playing in spring." Auerbach: "Count Nebraska's Bill Moos, Ohio State's Gene Smith and Iowa's Gary Barta in that camp." Purdue AD Mike Bobinski also said that he "would have liked to wait and see what happened" as practices progressed and students began returning to campus. But Warren and a majority of the Big Ten's presidents "had received enough concerning information from its medical advisory group" to cancel the season. Warren said that "part of the problem college athletics has faced all along was that it couldn't have operated in a bubble setting" (THEATHLETIC.com, 8/12).
THE RIGHT DECISION: USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes the Big Ten's decision is "brutal," but also "necessary, and historic." The Big Ten, the "conscience of the Power Five," knew the challenges of playing during a pandemic. With "so much more on the line, it took the conference a few more weeks to get there" than the Ivy League, which canceled its football season last month. The Pac-12 "naturally followed the Big Ten's lead, leaving the ACC, the Big 12 and the SEC embarrassingly still standing" (USA TODAY, 8/12). In Salt Lake City, Gordon Monson writes it is better that football is getting canceled rather than "more human beings" getting exposed to the virus. Monson: "That's what this all should be about, saving lives, keeping student-athletes as healthy and safe as possible" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 8/12). USA TODAY's Dan Wolken writes as "profoundly sad" as yesterday was for athletes, coaches and fans, it is "quite possible, even probable, that the Big Ten and Pac-12 made the right call." America "still hasn't gotten its arms around COVID-19 in any meaningful way over the past five months, which puts a lot of people in peril as college campuses set to reopen in the coming days" (USA TODAY, 8/12).
OPTING FOR CAUTION: In Chicago, Shannon Ryan writes the Big Ten once again "opted on the side of prudent and unpopular precaution." Of course, the decision to postpone the football season is "dotted with painful thorns." Ryan: "Unsurprisingly, the Big Ten's postponement was met with criticism." But "commend the conference for listening to what mattered." Yesterday "ultimately was a win for science and for compassion" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/12). In Detroit, John Niyo writes these are "uncertain times, so the difficult decisions ultimately are unavoidable." To the Big Ten's credit, the people in charge "went ahead and did what they felt they had to do, even if that opinion was far from unanimous" (DETROIT NEWS, 8/12).
THERE WERE LAWYERS: ESPN’s Booger McFarland said, “The presidents went down the hall, and they talked to their lawyers. … They asked the lawyers, ‘Can we do this without having huge liability on the backend,’ and the lawyers simply said no. It was an easy decision for the presidents once this information came out" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 8/11).
SPRING SEASON A FANTASY? In Pittsburgh, Ron Cook writes the Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents and chancellors "did the right thing" yesterday by postponing their college football seasons, but they are "naive if they believe they can play their games in the spring." Fans are "not going to see Big Ten and Pac-12 football" until fall '21. It "might happen with the smaller conferences, but not with the Power 5 schools." Cook: "What top players are going to play in February and March and risk injury so close to the April draft, not to mention lose that valuable preparation time for the NFL combine and their pro days? Few, if any" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 8/12). Also in Pittsburgh, Paul Zeise writes under the header, "College Football In The Spring Is A Fantasy That Won't Come True." A spring football season "isn't practical and most importantly there will be nothing different come Jan. 1." It is a "ridiculous idea on so many levels" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 8/12).
MORE QUESTIONS TO ANSWER: USA TODAY's Paul Myerberg writes the decisions "not to play football in the fall could cause a domino effect across the remaining Power Five conferences." The Big Ten and Pac-12 have "forced the rest of the Power Five to quickly address two questions that will decide the overall fate of the coming season: Is it possible to justify competition when other Power Five leagues have decided to table play at least through the winter?" And "can three or even two leagues compete as standalone bodies without all the accompanying pieces to a normal season -- up to and including the College Football Playoff?" (USA TODAY, 8/12).