Over the past two days, two different group of state legislators have written letters directed to Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren that urge him to reconsider what was perhaps a hasty decision to postpone the 2020 fall sports season.
First, 10 state legislators from six states (Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) in the Big Ten footprint penned a strong letter to Warren that focused on what is at stake without a fall sports schedule.
"These athletes are losing a vital part of student life and are becoming less marketable to future employers with each passing week," the letter stated. "Additionally, our local universities stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars that support vital student scholarships."
This has already been proven true as Iowa axed four of its sports teams already due to the expected loss of revenue from the disrupted athletic calendar. Cuts like these are expected across the country as schools run into difficulties with balancing the budget. Without revenue-driving sports like football operating, schools will be forced to make difficult decisions that only devalue the student experience.
On top of that initial letter, Nebraska Senator Julie Slama authored a letter that makes a compelling case for why football should be played this fall. In this piece, Slama and 27 other state senators broke down why the Big Ten's decision is not based in logic and reason.
"Other major conferences have proven over recent weeks that football and other fall sports can be conducted safely," the letter begins. "Big Ten athletic programs have led the way for player safety by ensuring student athletes have access to regular testing and are under tight physical distancing controls. Five weeks ago, conference leaders released updated and enhanced testing, quarantine, and isolation policies. These efforts have been successful at preventing the spread of COVID-19, yet the conference disregarded this success by cancelling the fall season anyway."
Nebraska has been at the forefront of a legal battle with the Big Ten about this very decision for some time now. It was through court hearings that the public learned there was an official 11-3 vote in favor of postponing the Big Ten season last month, but the conference is still taking heat for that decision.
Finally, the Big Ten has issued a response to these public declarations.
"We could not agree more with the group of Midwest legislators who stated in a latter to Commissioner Kevin Warren that the Big Ten Conference is "home to some of the world's leading institutions of higher learning, scientific research and medicine." The Big Ten's Return to Competition Task Force is tapping into those resources as it prepares for a safe return to competition."
"The letter reflects that we all want the same thing, which is for "sports to continue safely." The conference will continue to work with the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C), as it has always done, to identify opportunities to resume competition as soon as it is safe to do so."
Though the Big Ten's response addresses some elements of the legislators' letters on the surface, it does not convey much of substance. Yes, the conference does express a loose desire to return to play as quickly as possible, but it also alludes to an unclear safety standard that remains foggy at best and intentionally vague at worst.
The Big Ten's reply also does not mention the recent advancements with the Abbott Laboratories' five-minute test. Over the summer, this test has undergone criticism for its accuracy, but recent studies have shown that its sensitivity reaches into the mid-90% range. Though it is not a perfect solution, it is a considerable step forward and one that could ultimately lead to a fall football season if the Big Ten and its COP/C takes action quickly.
Do you think that the Big Ten's response was detailed enough? What would you like for Kevin Warren to address? Let us know!