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J. Thomas McNamara

    Regardless of where you reside in Big Ten country, parents of football players are unhappy and they’re expressing themselves in no uncertain terms.
    They want answers now from Commissioner Kevin Warren and University of Illinois Chancellor Jones.
    They were trying to arrange a meeting for Friday morning with Commissioner Warren at the Big Ten offices in Rosemont, along with parents from other member schools who also frustrated and irritated by the lack of transparency coming out of the office regarding the postponement of fall football until the spring.
    Here’s their letter which the Decatur Tribune was able to get.
    To Commissioner Warren, University of Illinois President Killeen and Chancellor Jones,
    “On Tuesday, August 11, we were delivered the awful news that our fall football season would be canceled. A few days prior on August 5th we were given a schedule. That schedule adjusted the season start with the first game changing from October 3 to September 3. Summer camp started. Our AD gave us strict rules for attendance and safety at games. We all thought “this season will be different but at least the boys will be able to play.”
    We all know what happened next. However, we have questions concerning the facts and data that lead to this decision. One could argue that “risks and uncertainties” have surrounded this virus since we first heard of it. We want to know what changed between August 5th and August 11th?
    “The families of the University of Illinois football players feel compelled to express our support for our sons and for the University of Illinois coaching staff, AD Whitman, our football program, and the safe “bubble” our team has created. We have seen the responses from other Big Ten football families and support their letters. We feel that the decision to cancel the 2020 season was premature and made in haste.
    “We also believe the Big Ten and University Presidents failed to gather input personally from any University of Illinois football player. We feel the players and parents of the Big Ten deserve to see the medical data that shows our sons are more at risk playing a season than living on campus and training 20 hours per week!
    “The University of Illinois football staff has taken every measure to ensure the safety and well-being of our sons. Our players, coaches, and support staff have been saliva tested every day since June! The University of Illinois is leading the nation with saliva-based testing pioneered by U of I researchers that supports widespread testing with rapid results to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
    Coach Smith, AD Whitman, and staff have maintained consistent communication with us throughout the entire process. As such, we have complete trust in the coaching and medical staff of the University of Illinois to maintain a safe environment. Since the season was to be conference only, it seems only logical that all Big Ten football programs be on the same COVID protocol. Were they? If not, why not? There were months of time to implement such a standardized testing protocol. If Illinois can do it, so could other Big Ten schools.
    “In addition to that trust, we have complete trust in our sons and their ability to be safe and smart during this pandemic. They wash hands, wear masks, and maintain social distancing. They seriously limit their contact with people outside the football program. They are intense about safety!
    We overwhelmingly support their decisions to play or opt-out this fall if they choose.
    “As football players, they understand risk. They are educated on those risks and accept the consequences associated. As young men, they understand the consequences of their actions and decisions and should be righted the ability to balance potential risk with reward. We believe with our boys participating in football at the University of Illinois this fall would make them safer in many ways and is the best possible environment for them during these crazy times.
    “We firmly believe that denying these players the opportunity to compete in games this season (FOR SOME THEIR LAST EVER!) would jeopardize their futures. It also will severely affect their mental and physical well-being.
    “We don’t want to make light of the seriousness of COVID, but it isn’t going away. If our sons are willing to assume the risk and play the game they love, why not give them the chance? If they aren’t able to play they at least should be afforded the right to know WHY their season has been taken from them. What data was analyzed when the decision was made to cancel? We are asking for a detailed description of the critical facts that were used to cancel the season. The players and families deserve to know WHY?
    On August 5th, Commissioner Warren stated “I have a son who’s a football student-athlete in the SEC at Mississippi State. And so, I’ve asked myself as a father, would I be comfortable for him to participate in the Big Ten based upon the testing policies, protocols, and procedures we have in place? As of today, the answer is yes.”
    “However, here we all sit devastated and heartbroken, wondering what happened to our football season, while his son is allowed to play this fall in the SEC.
    That is unfair!
    PROUD Families of the University of Illinois Football Team
    I will have more on this obviously developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

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