Photo: Patrick Gorski - USA Today Sports

Big Ten Folds to COVID Fears, Leaving More Questions Than Answers…

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It finally happened today. The Big Ten cancelled its plans for a fall football season, instead opting to punt the situation to spring. The decision comes after a week of speculation and adds unlimited questions to what’s next. Millions are angry and wondering how we got here, ourselves included.



Now, I do not want to completely rip on the university presidents and decision-makers for this decision. In no way do I, or anyone else, understand the amount of information available to them or the thousands of parties they are trying to please. With what information is available to the public though… this looks like a black mark on the Big Ten.

WHAT WE KNOW

First, we know it was not an unanimous vote to move football to the spring. The earlier miscommunicated reports stated Iowa and Nebraska voted against the move. While incoming Ohio State president Kristina Johnson was reported to vote against the move as well. While the final vote has not been revealed, it is safe to assume these schools maintained their view on the situation.





We also know they had MONTHS to prepare for the worst. Look back to the cancellation of March Madness. That was the beginning of the end for sports as we knew them. Although it took time for decision makers to fully understand the impact of the pandemic, other sports leagues have successfully managed to get play back under way.

It seemed the Big Ten was on that path too. They released a ten-game schedule just last week and some schools announced games in empty stadiums, to the enhanced safety protocols. So why are they shifting their decision all of a sudden?

LACK OF LEADERSHIP

Outside of a few schools that seemed to have voted against the decision to postpone everything until spring, there appears to be a complete lack of leadership and understanding at the top. While the decision was based off more than just death rate, it still does not excuse their decision.


Reports on the rare heart condition myocarditis and its prevalence in people who have had COVID-19 have gotten the attention of everyone at every level of college athletics.

According to a high-ranking Big Ten source, the conference is aware of at least 10 players who have myocarditis, an alarmingly high number for an otherwise rare condition, on the eve of preseason camp.

Nicole Auerbach – The Athletic

Am I missing something or is ten players an extremely small portion of the Big Ten’s player pool? With the option to opt-out having already been utilized, why couldn’t those players just decide to do that? At most, why couldn’t the Big Ten create a mandatory opt-out for certain health conditions, if the worry is that great?

It has been made clear over the least couple of days, the players want to play. After vocalizing their stance, support has flooded in from fans, coaches and even the President. I guess those voices will go unheard…. again.





Wait a minute…

Aren’t these schools going to have some form of in-person teaching this fall? Unless you’re locking everyone at home before and after class, there’s no way to keep vulnerable populations safe from COVID-19. Luckily, statistics show that the vulnerable populations are the elderly, not those regularly participating in college athletics.

Remember, other sports have succeeded in their returns to play across the world. Outbreaks have happened among teams and players that weren’t careful. Nobody has died. Most haven’t felt sick. None have reported after effects we know were caused by COVID-19.

A CATCH-22

I am livid about this decision, but understand the double-edged sword these Universities are faced with. Had they moved forward with playing and were hit with an outbreak, the backlash would have been infinite. There is also backlash and plenty of negatives in not playing, though too.

Yet if we think logically, aren’t these young and healthy players safer at school playing sports and being tested regularly, than at home, not playing and not being tested? The access to resources for the majority of Americans (many of whom are going back to school and playing sports again) is nonexistent.

According to the Big Ten, fall athletes will still have access to these abundant resources, which begs the question, why they couldn’t play then?




This entire debacle has led to one massive question. Is this the end of the NCAA? Some higher-profile football players will likely to jump ship (some already have) and train for the NFL, instead of playing in the spring. But what happens with everyone else? It seems unlikely that full universities will branch off and play games on their own… but what about players?

GOODBYE NCAA?

There are a lot of kids who still want to play, as we discussed above. There are a lot of rich business men and women out there who are always looking for opportunities to make money. Who is to say there won’t be other options for these youngsters to play football this fall, outside of the NCAA?

Our own Eric Strack (also featured in the video above) brought it up on Minnesota Sports Fan Daily, today. Who wouldn’t be interested in starting the equivalent to the NBA’s G-League, for the NFL? It would go after top-tier talent and coaches hard, offering actual money to play (plus name and likeness freedom like the rest of the country).

It’d be difficult to get something like that up and running for this fall, as there would be a lot of moving parts. Nonetheless, this fiasco has highlighted the chaotic and unforgiving side of collegiate athletics… and poked even bigger holes in the entire institution of the NCAA.

Immediate Future

In the immediate future, I anticipate a severe drop in booster donations, fan loyalty, and understanding. This was ‘the year’ for so many teams. The Gophers were in great shape to have one of their best seasons ever.. (not to mention another title run from my OSU Buckeyes).

This will not sit well with those who pour money into one of the most popular sports in the country. What makes this even worse for Big Ten fans, is that the ACC and SEC are still planning on playing (for now). At least some people understand this situation in its entirety…



Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan

jkewitsch

Edina native and two-time grad of the University of Florida in Sport Management. Previously worked with the Timberwolves and Minnesota United FC along with the Gators.

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