The academic school year is off to an uneven start across the country. From grade school to universities, they’re trying to figure out a path forward during a pandemic that’s about as complicated as it gets. It’s also complicated politically. If you’re an athlete in the Big Ten or the PAC-12, even more so.
On Thursday, eight Big Ten football players filed a 13-page lawsuit in Lancaster County District Court in Nebraska. Garrett Snodgrass, Garrett Nelson, Ethan Piper, Noa Pola Gates, Alante Brown, Brant Banks, Brig Banks, and Jackson Hannah are plaintiffs in a suit seeking an injunction that would force the conference to reinstate the fall sports season. The lawsuit claims that the Big Ten failed to follow its own procedures when it canceled the season. Additionally, they question the medical information used to make that decision.
Mike Flood, the lead attorney representing the players, wants an explanation as to how each president and chancellor voted when the decision to jettison the season was made:
“All along my clients, both the parents and now eight University of Nebraska football student athletes are interested in knowing how each president and chancellor voted. We’re interested in knowing the discussion that took place before that vote took place,” Flood would say in his statement. Additionally, and perhaps most interesting, is the request by the players that all records related to the decision be disclosed.
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren is at the eye of a storm and it’s not lessening in intensity. He has bumbled his way through a season that was on and then suddenly off. He was aloof, silent when he needed to communicate, and most damning, arrogant with parents, student-athletes, specifically football players, whose future he holds in his own hands.
Warren has been steadfast in saying there are no regrets from a conference standpoint. In a letter he authored on behalf of the Big Ten, COVID-19 was the focus and the baseline for his decision, a baseline used elsewhere like fellow power conference, the PAC-12. However, in retrospect, his decision and that of the league now look mismanaged. His language likely led to a perception that he alone was the driving force to a football shutdown.
But wait, there’s more
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, another twist may be on the near horizon. Jeff Potrykus reported on Thursday that the conference could be looking at starting the season the week of Thanksgiving. The story also says the holiday start is one of several options being kicked around. Given the uproar from fans, parents, and players, playing in 2020 might be a distinct possibility, despite what Warren said in his open letter.
“The vote by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors was overwhelmingly in support of postponing fall sports and will not be revisited.”Excerpt from open letter to the Big Ten community
Whether Kevin Warren survives the botched handling of Big Ten football or not, the latest twist to the story is damning proof Warren misread the situation. His arrogance hasn’t helped. Having to reverse a decision he said he would not, makes him and the league look less arrogant and more foolish.