COLUMN: Whether It’s Shaun Wade’s Father Or Kevin Warren’s Son, Let’s Leave Family Out

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Regardless of whether Big Ten Conference schools play in a fall football season, Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade has elected to opt out of college football in order to prepare for the National Football League draft.

Congrats to that young man. Barring a catastrophic injury during his training process, which you’d never wish upon anybody unless you’re a monster of a human being, Wade has done everything college is supposed to provide for a young person.

He was able to experience college life, he earned his bachelor's degree from Ohio State University this past summer as a sport industry major and by all accounts, has built himself a very viable safety net to supplement a potential NFL career that statistically averages just a 3.3-year length.

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Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Shaun Wade (24) leaves the field after being ejected for targeting in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl college football playoff semifinal game against the Clemson Tigers at State Farm Stadium.Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

If Wade, who is a projected first round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, doesn’t want to play college football this fall, he has every right to pass on that opportunity to give himself the possibility of a better future. During the worst virus pandemic of this generation’s lifetime, the NCAA gave players the ability to make that choice one way or another without having to worry about consequences to their scholarship and academic standing within its university. Nobody should or needs to be shamed for making an adult decision with their lives and that goes for Mr. Shaun Wade.

What complicates the matter a tiny bit is Wade’s father, Randy, organizing and speaking out loud during the ‘We Want To Play’ protests outside the Big Ten offices in Rosemont, Ill., and outside Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio when the league’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors decided to cancel the 2020 fall sports calendar.

I’ll admit it. It was my knee-jerk reaction to Shaun Wade’s opt-out decision that it made Randy Wade’s decision to protest less meaningful. After further consultation and reflection, I’ve decided Randy Wade’s decision to protest (while I honestly disagree with his position) is seen by me as potentially more altruistic and about his overall message of college athletes should have the right to make their own decisions. Again, I don’t agree with that logic completely but I agree Randy Wade should have the right to make that argument on the behalf of not only his son but all athletes involved in the soap opera drama that has been the Big Ten Conference over the last few months.

And if Shaun Wade has the right to opt out, even after his father campaigns loudly in multiple states for his right to play, this brings me to the last narrative that should fall on deaf ears as well.

Kevin Warren’s son, Powers Warren, has the right to play football at Mississippi State without creating any negative consequences for his dad or himself regardless of what the Big Ten Conference COP/C decides on fall football. The Big Ten Conference is league where those 14 COP/C members control the employment of Kevin Warren as the Big Ten’s commissioner but the 21-year-old Powers Warren doesn't need his dad's permission to play college football. Therefore, Powers Warren's decision to play should therefore, not be involved in any philosophical argument about whether the Big Ten Conference plays football this fall or not. How many times have you seen the social media, protest or upset fan argument of “Kevin Warren canceled the fall football season in the Big Ten but is letting his son play at Mississippi State!” And after you've seen this argument, whether it was in lawsuit documents or letter written by parents of Big Ten athletes, how many times have you wanted to scream that it is not at all relevant?

This argument is, of course, factually inaccurate as Kevin Warren had no ability to postpone a fall football season without a vote by the league’s 14 COP/C members but instead was authorized to execute the decision made on Aug. 11. Secondly, Warren’s son has nothing to do with what is going in the Big Ten fall football drama in the exact same way Shaun Wade’s decision has little to nothing to do with the league’s current drama or his dad’s decision to hop on a plane to protest in a near-empty parking lot in Rosemont, Ill.

So, maybe just maybe, for the sake of decency, we can all stop with the child-like, knee-jerk chants/comments about Kevin Warren’s son or Shaun Wade’s father. It’s the same illogical and unprofessional behavior that doesn’t make anybody look anything close to impressive. 

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