By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Even with its lack of transparency, the lack of a clear-cut plan, and the lack of communication and awareness, I’ve tried to give the Big Ten Conference the benefit of the doubt with its handling of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
I’ve tried to understand why the conference chose to cancel the fall football season, and still believe the decision was made mostly to protect the student-athletes from a highly contagious virus.
You can disagree with the decision to cancel the fall season, and there is certainly a large group that does disagree, in some cases, strongly, such as the eight Nebraska players who are suing the Big Ten Conference, requesting an order to invalidate the Big Ten’s order not to play football.
Some of the parents of current Iowa players also have voiced their displeasure with the Big Ten’s decision, including having a letter delivered to the office of Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren that expresses concerns with how the decision to cancel the fall season came to be.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields also launched a petition on social media to reinstate the season.
Everywhere you look, there is resistance to the Big Ten’s decision to cancel fall football. But that hasn’t necessarily changed how I feel about the decision, because I still believe it was made with the health of the players and coaches as the top priority and top concern.
I still believe that the Big Ten’s medical and legal experts advised the conference to cancel the fall football season for both health and legal reasons.
I believe the decision was made in good spirit because it’s hard to criticize a conference for being overly cautious, and for protecting its players, especially knowing that the decision will hurt the conference financially.
It might not ultimately prove to be the right decision, but I think the decision to cancel the fall season was made for the right reasons, meaning player safety.
But on the other hand, Kevin Warren will have a lot of explaining to do if the Big 12, the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference all make it through a full football season this fall.
That’s a big if right now as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise on multiple college campuses, including the University of Iowa.
But fair or not, Warren has certainly put his reputation on the line with the decision to cancel fall football, even though he didn’t make the final decision.
Warren simply did what the Big Ten’s presidents and chancellors told him to do after they reportedly had voted to cancel the fall season.
The fact that the presidents and chancellors made the decision with very little transparency, and less than a week after the Big Ten had released its revised football schedules made the process seem unorganized, impulsive and without the necessary vision and awareness.
And now the Big Ten looks even more unorganized and lacking vision with reports that it is now considering starting the 2020 football season around Thanksgiving weekend in late November.
The other three Power 5 conferences would have been playing for nearly two months at that point, and would also be in the process of playing for a national championship, albeit, one that would come with an asterisk.
But there still would be a purpose to the season, whereas what would be the purpose for the Big Ten to start the season in late November, and two months after the other three Power 5 conferences started their seasons?
It would almost seem as if the Big Ten is admitting that its decision to cancel the fall season was wrong, but without going as far as to admit it.
How and why would it be safe to play in late November when it isn’t considered safe in September and October?
Especially if there isn’t a vaccine by then, which seems likely.
Some have said the Big Ten’s decision to cancel fall football was politically motivated with the presidential election coming on Nov. 3rd. But if that were true, the decision to play in late November would be made before the election, and preparation for the season would also start weeks before the election.
The only way the Big Ten could start the season in late November would be if the other three Power 5 conferences make it that far without having to shut down.
But if that were the case, the Big Ten already would have a public relations nightmare unfolding.
It seems that the Big Ten is starting to crumble under the pressure of resistance and criticism.
The Big Ten now looks indecisive, and showing signs of weakness.
There were reports that the Big Ten wanted to start the football season in early January, but that narrative seems to be losing ground to a late November start.
If true, then why?
I’m not saying that the Big Ten made a mistake with its decision to cancel fall football. But how it reached that decision, and how it’s reacted since making the decision leaves much to be desired.
It also makes it harder to defend the decision.