The day the Big Ten Conference dropped its decision, Wisconsin took the field in a session that stood out to one of its senior leaders.
“We come in Tuesday, we have a practice. I feel like this team has the best practice I've ever seen here in five years," left tackle Cole Van Lanen said.
Redshirt senior safety Eric Burrell recalled feeling the energy and telling head coach Paul Chryst at the end of drills on Monday, "Damn, it feels good to be back here, man." For the two days, he believed the team "had a blast on the field," made plays and had fun.
But then it was gone, as on Tuesday afternoon, the conference declared its "postponement" of the league's football season and fall sports competitions.
The two redshirt seniors spoke with reporters via a Zoom conversation on Friday morning, and both discussed their emotions surrounding the situation. Van Lanen used the term "roller coaster" when describing the days from before the updated schedule was released to recent days filled with practicing, reports, coaches' and players' statements and the official decision. He expressed being upset and angry upon the news being publicly disclosed.
"People just don't understand how much time and how much we're sacrificing to do what we want to do," Van Lanen said. "I think as players we truly do feel safer playing football than we do now. The chancellors tell us that now we can go to class and still do football 20 hours a week. As a player, that makes absolutely zero sense, but we can't play a football game."
For Burrell, he admitted he was surprised "because at the end of the day, everybody knows it's a business so I honestly thought, like they said at the beginning of it, they were going to try their hardest.
"It just really came to an end so it was very frustrating. I get it and I don't get it."
Both Van Lanen and Burrell stated the team did not have a positive COVID-19 test for weeks.
However, Burrell also looked beyond the team and at the whole of the conference.
"I think just with the history that we had with the positives at other universities, so I understand that side of it," Burrell said. "It's a lose-lose. It's very tough, and I think it's a big decision for [Big Ten] commissioner [Kevin Warren].
"At the end of the day, football is second-to-none, so it's whatever we can do to continue to keep doing whatever we got to do. Then when the time's right, when it's safe to play, we'll be ready.”
Van Lanen stated he got together with the seniors on Tuesday evening after the news was announced, and both players discussed trying to keep positive and control what they themselves can control.
The in-state offensive line product from Green Bay admitted there are a few "roads" he could take coming up in terms of a decision of returning to UW or look ahead to the NFL. For that matter, he admitted he does want to put more game reps on film.
He also referenced and appears enthused about a theoretical concept being discussed with a spring season starting early January and ending early March, though he did not discuss specifics in terms of amount of games or who or where the hypothetical idea came from.
Just a few days since the announcement, nothing has been officially announced by the Big Ten for any form of a spring season, though ideas are coming out of the woodwork from Ohio State head coach Ryan Day, Purdue's Jeff Brohm, to even a report by the MMQB's Albert Breer.
“The biggest thing I think as players is we hope it's not as wishy-washy as it’s been, because it's been very stressful I feel like on me personally and I know a lot of other people never getting a definite answer on anything," Van Lanen said. "We get a schedule, and we're all pumped and then what is it -- four days later -- the whole season’s done.
"We don't want that to happen again for spring, so I'd rather them take their time on it and figure something out that's gonna happen instead of just cancel it again down the road. I think we're all excited to hopefully get another opportunity and kind of make us feel like the season’s not lost.”
Who would the two senior Badgers like to speak with to discuss their respective frustrations and attempt to receive answers about the decision? For Van Lanen, he mentioned the conference's presidents and Warren.
“I've never seen our president ever. Ever," Van Lanen said, referring to UW-Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank. "Just personally even Wisconsin, for her to make a decision on our behalf that has no idea what's going on with us ... to not have the AD or coach, us to have any say on our season when we're the ones putting in the time, and we're the ones that are giving up everything to make sure this happens."
In an answer to a previous question, Burrell had mentioned that he believed the players followed the proper protocols and were cautious. Van Lanen also stated he did not do anything besides head to Camp Randall Stadium and be with his teammates, outside of 15-minute trips to the grocery store that included donning a mask.
"At least I would understand postponing, like the SEC and stuff, give it more time to see what's actually going to happen when students come back and stuff and then cancel it, but they're canceling it before we even started," Van Lanen added. "You didn't even give it a chance. I think that's really frustrating for all of us players and coaches.
"Like I said, you can only control what you can control though, and it's over with. I got to just stick with a positive attitude and move on from here.”
For Burrell, he said he did not know who he would talk to. Why?
Because he felt they had no information on who made the decision, how they made it, or if it was a unanimous vote or majority.
"I don't know if the Big Ten Commissioner Warren, I don't know if he made the decision. I don't know if it's somebody above him like, ‘Hey, this is what it's gonna be. This is how it rolls, so we're going to pull the plug.'
"I really don't know, honestly.”
More on Cole Van Lanen, Eric Burrell availability from AllBadgers.com
- Cole Van Lanen, Eric Burrell on Transfer Topic with Big Ten Postponement
- Has Cole Van Lanen 'Put Enough on Tape' for NFL? 'I Think I Need More'
Ed. Note: UW released a statement from Blank and athletic director Barry Alvarez about the Big Ten decision on Tuesday, as seen below.