Big Ten Commissioner pens ‘open letter’ on decision to postpone fall sports

Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren wrote an “open letter to the Big Ten community” Wednesday in which he outlined primary factors that led to the postponement of fall sports.

Warren has faced criticism since the conference postponed fall action on Aug. 11, and Warren told Yahoo Sports Wednesday, “I’ll be the first one to admit, I was not as clear as I should have been. That’s why I felt it was important that I write this letter to explain it.”

Reports surrounding a vote taken to postpone the fall season have been conflicting in the past week. Radio host Dan Patrick cited sources saying there was a 12-2 vote in favor of postponing, while Penn State and Minnesota presidents have said a vote did not occur. In his letter, Warren wrote, “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. The decision was thorough and deliberative, and based on sound feedback, guidance and advice from medical experts.”

The primary factors leading to the decision to postpone, as printed in Warren’s letter, are below:

  • “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.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday that the Big Ten is exploring a football season schedule that would begin in January and use indoor stadiums geographically close to member schools.

The report says the conference wants to end an alternate season before the 2021 NFL Draft, which starts April 29. There’s no word on how long this alternate season would be, or how playing in such a season would impact player eligibility. The Division I Board of Directors is meeting to discuss student-athlete eligibility on Friday.