Big Ten reportedly mulls canceling season as players, coaches push back

The week started off with college football season generally considered to be in extreme danger.

Just days after major conferences announced new schedules — plans altered because of the coronavirus pandemic — multiple national college football writers penned pieces proclaiming the season to be on life support.

The Mid-American Conference canceled its fall sports Saturday, leading to multiple reports the Big Ten and other Power 5 leagues would eventually follow suit.

Yahoo! Sports reported late Sunday night a majority of Big Ten presidents and chancellors favor canceling, but a final decision had not been made at the end of an impromptu meeting that day.

Monday, the Detroit Free Press reported the conference leaders had voted 12-2 to cancel the season, mirroring a report from earlier in the day from national radio host Dan Patrick on his radio show, but a Big Ten spokesperson later told multiple reporters no vote had taken place yet.

A source told Cox Ohio Newspapers a meeting of Big Ten athletics directors was scheduled for Monday night but gave no indication that would yield a final decision.

While all this was happening, pushback from players, their parents and coaches built on social media.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day wrote on Twitter, “Swinging as hard as we possibly can right now for these players!! This isn’t over! #FIGHT,” while Penn State coach James Franklin wrote, “I love our players and believe it is my responsibility to help them chase their dreams, both collectively and individually. I am willing to fight WITH them and for our program.”

Nebraska coach Scott Frost told reporters in Lincoln his team wanted to play, and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh released a lengthy statement arguing for the opportunity as well.

The players began making their feelings known around midnight Sunday when a group called the National College Players Association shared a graphic declaring, “We all want to play football this season,” along with parameters.

Those include establishing universal health and safety protocols across all conferences and ultimately creating a college football players association.

Although college football players are not legally able to unionize, the NCPA bills itself as “the voice for college athletes in their pursuit of basic protections.”

Its executive director, Ramogi Huma, was involved in a failed effort for Northwestern players to unionize in 2014. More recently, he has been involved in groups of players in the Pac-12 and Big Ten organizing to share demands with their conferences regarding playing during the pandemic, expanded compensation and social justice initiatives.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and Clemson counterpart Trevor Lawrence were among players to share the graphic and join the hashtag, “#WeWantToPlay”.

The Ohio State Football Parents Association also released a statement declaring confidence in protocols established by the program and a desire to see their sons get a chance to play this fall.

“As parents, we strongly believe our sons want to play the upcoming season and have full trust the university and coaching staff along with the medical experts have found a safe way for that to occur,” the parents said. “We believe that this age group represents some of the healthiest individuals, while we recognize the risk cannot be eliminated, we believe the risk is minimal and the season can safely and responsibly occur.”

Commissioners of the Power 5 leagues — the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, ACC and Big 12 — met Sunday, according to The Associated Press.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told The AP no decisions had been made but said concerns about COVID-19 leading to heart inflammation in some of its victims was a growing concern.

While there was speculation other leagues could fall in line with the Big Ten, that was not certain.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey wrote on Twitter, “The best advice I’ve received since COVID-19: ‘Be patient. Take time when making decisions. This is all new and you’ll gain better information each day.’ SEC has been deliberate at each step since March…slowed return to practice…delayed first game to respect start of fall semester… Developed testing protocols… We know concerns remain. We never had a FB season in a COVID-19 environment. Can we play? I don’t know. WE haven’t stopped trying. We support, educate and care for student-athletes every day, and will continue to do so… every day.”

Late Monday, was the first to report that incoming Ohio State president Kristina Johnson would vote against canceling the season if a vote were held:

...the source says Johnson believes Ohio State can keep players safe as it continues through preseason camp towards the season, currently scheduled to begin Sept. 3 at Illinois.


Ohio State began practice Thursday.

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