It has been nearly two weeks since the Big 10 Conference made the decision to suspend all their fall sports. This decision left players, coaches, athletic directors, and fans confused and angry.
The confusion starts with the fact that none of those group’s opinions were taken into consideration. That’s right, the decision on fall sports was made by individuals who have nothing to do with the day-to-day running of the athletic departments. The presidents of the Big 10 made this decision out of fear and fear alone.
Leaders of the conference are afraid of the liability in the extremely rare instance a player or coach dies of COVID-19. Unfortunately in the sue-happy society we live in today that’s likely a fair fear if you just throw all the athletes out there. The other fear is the political and social fallout if the same instance happens.
COVID-19 has become a political virus on social media. If you aren’t taking COVID-19 as serious as the Bubonic plague you are a Trump-loving, card-carrying MAGA Republican. If you take COVID-19 as serious as the Bubonic plague than you are a bleeding heart liberal socialist trying to steal freedoms. So a lot of Universities are basing their rules on their president’s political affiliation.
As with any form of successful business, the leader shouldn’t be making decisions solely based on what’s best for them. The most successful businesses listen to their employees and customers and make decisions for the best of the success of the business. In terms of universities, the employees and customers are the students, faculty, and their families.
I’m in no way saying that universities should be democracies where all decisions are up for a vote and majority rules. Presidents should make the decisions that are best for the university as a whole, but how can they know what’s really best if they don’t seek any input from the people on the front lines? Clearly, after this decision the answer is they can’t.
Students, athletes, faculty, their families, and fans have been sharing their anger since the decision to postpone the season was announced. Some parents recently went to the Big 10 headquarters to protest for fall sports to be reinstated. I have seen many social media posts from students questioning why if it’s not safe to play sports, why is it safe to be in school? Players and coaches have been the most outspoken, taking to all forms of media to voice their displeasure.
Unfortunately for all those groups, the Big 10 leaders have stated their decision is final. All the bad press could have been avoided if they would have just listened to everyone involved. Even if they still decided to postpone the season, they could have used the arguments from those other groups to explain their reasons for postponing.
Maybe they would find out more players than we think didn’t want to play. Maybe the parents wouldn’t have agreed to sign a liability waiver. Possibly the coaches could have said they couldn’t work with the medical mandates so the season just wouldn’t work.
Unfortunately for those involved with Big 10 athletics, the leaders ignored them and instead made a decision based solely on personal political views and fear. The funny thing is the quick decision they made should have them more scared than ever.
What happens when a regular student or faculty member gets sick? How will those presidents explain that it was too dangerous to play sports, but not too dangerous to have on-campus learning? And what happens when no students or faculty have issues and other conferences play sports.
In the end, they are going to be like a lot of businesses and government officials in 2020 and wish they’d asked the silent majority what they thought.