'What Changed?': Iowa Parents Want Answers From Big Ten

John Bohnenkamp

A group of more than 60 parents of Iowa football players has sent a letter to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren asking for an explanation on why the fall football season was postponed.

The letter comes three days after the conference's presidents and chancellors voted that all fall sports would be put on hold because of medical concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter was delivered to the Big Ten's office in Rosemont, Ill., on Friday by Kristin and Phil Spiewak, the parents of Iowa long snapper Austin Spiewak.

"We need answers to important health questions," Stuart Duncan, the father of kicker Keith Duncan, posted on Twitter. "There has been zero information shared and no transparency."

Gary Koerner, the father of Iowa safety Jack Koerner, posted on Twitter:

The parents noted in the letter that the Big Ten made its decision six days after the release of the 10-game conference-only football schedule and the medical protocols for the season.

"Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren followed that up by saying 'I have a son who's a football student-athlete in the SEC at Mississippi State. And, so, I've asked myself as a father, would I be comfortable for him to participate in the Big Ten based upon the testing policies, protocols and procedures we have in place? And as of today, the answer is yes,'" the parents noted. "Six days later, Commissioner Warren and Council of Presidents and Chancellors canceled fall sports competition. What changed?"

Conference officials, including Warren, noted that the fact that athletes who have the COVID-19 virus could suffer from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.

In the letter, the parents stated, "Everyone testing positive MAY have an increased risk of this condition and the CDC shows just over 3 percent of infected people to date have an issue. Dr. Andy Peterson, Iowa's team physician, states, 'There are other viruses that cause myocarditis, like winter-time flu and things like that.'

"Football players, as well as all athletes of all contact sports, are well aware of the risk involved. They are educated on those risks and accept the consequences of those risks when they step on the field. Risks such as paralysis, infectious disease, cardiovascular and respiratory issues are listed by the CDC. Further risk include concussions that lead to depression, anxiety, aggression, personalty changes, increased risk of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, CTE and other brain disorders. Yet the individuals accepting those risks — our sons — were never consulted, heard from, or even considered in the Big Ten's decision to cancel the season. No medical findings or opinions of experts have ever been shared."

The parents also pointed out that the Big Ten universities will have students on campus and attending classes this fall.

"Exposing the players to potential risk of COVID-19, risks they are already exposed to with the flu, is unacceptable to their school and conference to have this taken away from them in behind-closed-door meetings and still continue to expose them and all students and staff to the same risks is infuriating — and sets a precedent that is completely unacceptable," the letter stated. "The Big Ten's lack of communication and leadership is offensive.

"There is still time to do this correctly — to involve the Athletic Directors, coaches and player representatives. To allow them input, the ability to ask questions, provide medical information allowing the players the opportunity to accept or opt out of said risks, just as they have the opportunity to do with all other risks associated with contact sports."

Among the parents' requests:

  • A meeting with Warren and committee members with "meaningful and thorough explanations to a group of representatives that include parents, players and coaches."
  • To be able to ask questions and "get direct answers, and to have a say in the decision-making process."
  • To be able to review a full action plan including protocols and safety measures.

The parents asked for a response from the Big Ten by August 19.

"There is time to fix the wrongdoings and come out as leaders," the letter stated. "We strongly encourage the Big Ten to reconsider playing the fall college football season, develop a plan of meaningful action and letting these young adults be included in the decision-making process."

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