ROSEMONT (HOI) -- In its first comment since the Big Ten decided to postpone fall sports until the spring, the conference reaffirms its decision and says it will not waver from it.
In an open letter to the community, Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren said,
"We thoroughly understand and deeply value what sports mean to our student-athletes, their families, our coaches and our fans. 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."
Despite the support from university administrations, it wasn't well received from Big Ten coaches, players and even their families, plus fans. All were vocal about their displeasure with the conference's decision and the timing of it, coming just six days after it released the revised fall conference-only football schedule.
"We understand the disappointment and questions surrounding the timing of our decision to postpone fall sports, especially in light of releasing a football schedule only six days prior to that decision. From the beginning, we consistently communicated our commitment to cautiously proceed one day at a time with the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes at the center of our decision-making process. That is why we took simultaneous paths in releasing the football schedule, while also diligently monitoring the spread of the virus, testing, and medical concerns as student-athletes were transitioning to full-contact practice," added Warren.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields even started an online petition to convince the conference to reverse its decision, the petition has received nearly 300,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.
"We have tremendous appreciation and understanding regarding what participation in sports means to our student-athletes, their families, our campus communities and our fans. We will continue to make the best decisions possible for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes. We appreciate the passion of the Big Ten community and will harness that energy towards providing the best possible experience for all Big Ten student-athletes," explained Warren.
Even parents of Big Ten athletes have planned a protest at the conference's headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois on Friday.
However, the conference maintains that there is just too much uncertainty surrounding the virus, including many unknown health risks for athletes and coaches. Also citing an increase in COVID-19 transmission rates on conference campuses, along with the difficulties associated with contact tracing.
"The Big Ten Conference has assembled a Return to Competition Task Force consisting of members from the COP/C, sports medicine and university medical personnel, Athletic Directors, Head Coaches, Faculty Athletic Representatives and Senior Women Administrators to plan for the return of fall sports competition as soon as possible. In evaluating winter/spring models, we will explore many factors including the number of football games that can reasonably be played from a health perspective in a full calendar year while maintaining a premier competitive experience for our student-athletes culminating in a Big Ten Championship. The Big Ten Conference will continue to collect feedback from student-athletes, families, and other constituents and remains in active discussions with its television partners regarding all future plans," explained Warren.
The Big Ten says it knows the financial impacts will be large, but explained those financial implications did not play a factor in their decision.