INDIANAPOLIS — In his first year as the commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, Kevin Warren was unable to speak at the 2020 Big Ten Football Media Days. No one could because it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One year later, he stood at a podium inside Lucas Oil Stadium on Thursday and kicked off the 2021 Big Ten Football Media Days. Warren addressed the conference's plan to combat the virus ahead of the upcoming season.
Warren said that during a semi-annual meeting with the league's chancellors and presidents on June 6, they voted for a decentralized process that would allow for individual schools to have autonomy in their decision-making.
Before the start of the fall sports season, the Big Ten will compile those decisions and proceed accordingly. As of now, Warren is taking part in weekly calls with the other Power Five commissioners to discuss the season.
"One of the things that we’re working on right now is the fact that our schools are finalizing their proposed policies and procedures for the fall,” Warren said. “We’ll get that information in early August, we’ll combine it and then we’ll get together with our chancellors and presidents and other key constituents to make the determination as far as how we handle the fall.”
When it comes to the 2020 football season, which featured 13 game cancellations as a result of concerns surrounding COVID-19, Warren wouldn't change the decisions he and the Big Ten Conference made.
“I don’t have any regrets,” Warren said. “Quite naturally, we all look back on our lives and other things that we wish we would have maybe done a little bit differently. But if I had the chance to do it all over last year, I would make the same decisions that we made."
Last August, the league originally decided to cancel the season, which was met by backlash from players, coaches and fans. The football season was eventually reinstated, and the Big Ten put together a nine-game, conference-only schedule for its programs.
But Warren was criticized for his lack of communication. He put a positive spin on the situation, stating it made him a better leader.
“This was a very complicated and complex time in our nation, in our world and in college athletics. It was complicated for all of us,” Warren said. “This was not a perfect time for us in the conference, but it was productive. We learned – I know I personally learned – many important lessons, and I feel that we grew stronger together as a conference.”
Warren mentioned that the Big Ten will hire a Chief Medical Officer before the start of the season, which is a little more than five weeks away.
His statements come after SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said the conference has elected not to postpone games and will consider them forfeits if a team can’t play due to COVID-19.
While the Big Ten hasn't yet announced such a policy, and a definitive answer hasn't be reached, Warren assured he is working toward a solution before Nebraska plays Illinois on Aug. 28.
“One of the things I did learn last year is to make sure that we are methodical and thoughtful, that we bring people together,” He said. “We’re right where we wanted to be, is that it will be a decentralized decision-making process."
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