With criticism coming from all directions, from the west Nebraska, from the Midwest, Ohio State, Michigan, Illinois, Penn State, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren had to do something after a group of Illini football parents and others sent the Big Ten office letters asking for a meeting to discuss the lack of transparency from the league on why football is being postponed until spring.
“The decision was thorough and deliberative, and based on sound feedback, guidance and advice from medical experts,” Warren wrote in his first public comments since announcing the league’s decision on Aug. 11. “Despite the decision to postpone fall sports, we continue our work to find a path forward that creates a healthy and safe environment for all Big Ten student-athletes to compete in the sports they love in a manner that helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protects both student-athletes and the surrounding communities.”
“This was a difficult decision that had incredible, complicated financial ramifications,” he said. “But I’m confident we made the right decision.
“The vote by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) was overwhelmingly in support of postponing fall sports and will not be revisited,” Warren’s letter read. “The decision was thorough and deliberative, and based on sound feedback, guidance and advice from medical experts.”
- 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.
- As our teams were ramping up for more intense practices, many of our medical staffs did not think the interventions we had planned would be adequate to decrease the potential spread even with very regular testing.
- As the general student body comes back to campus, spread to student-athletes could reintroduce infection into our athletics community.
- There is simply too much we do not know about the virus, recovery from infection, and longer-term effects. While the data on cardiomyopathy is preliminary and incomplete, the uncertain risk was unacceptable at this time.
- Concerns surrounding contact tracing still exist, including the inability to social distance in contact sports pursuant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. While risk mitigation processes (e.g., physical distancing, face coverings, proper hygiene, etc.) can be implemented across campus for the student body population, it became clear those processes could not be fully implemented in contact sports.
- 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.