Ohio State coach Ryan Day is unhappy with the way that the Big Ten has communicated with its member schools in the wake of its decision to postpone the 2020 fall sports season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Day said in a statement Thursday afternoon that the Big Ten’s communication since it postponed football and other sports in August “has been disappointing and often unclear.” There is no timetable for when the Big Ten could begin its fall sports seasons as there has been speculation the conference could start football before the year is over.
Here’s Day’s statement in full below. The decision to postpone all fall sports was made by university presidents and chancellors, not by coaches and athletic directors.
“While I understand the Big Ten Conference’s decision to postpone the football season because of health and safety considerations, the communication of information from the Big Ten following the decision has been disappointing and often unclear. However, we still have an opportunity to give our young men what they have worked so hard for: a chance to safely compete for a national championship this fall.
“I couldn’t possibly be prouder of how this team, our medical personnel, athletic director and president have stayed together and managed through this extremely difficult time with so many unanswered questions. the Big Ten medical subcommittee has done an excellent job of creating a safe pathway toward returning to play in mid-October.
“These young men and their parents have asked so many questions that I do not have an answer to, but the one that hurts the most is ‘Why can these other teams and players play and we can’t?’ Duke is playing Notre Dame and Clemson is playing Wake Forest this weekend.
“Our players want to know: why can’t they play?”
Big Ten was first Power Five conference to postpone
The Big Ten became the first major conference to postpone football and other fall sports when it made the decision on Aug. 11. The Pac-12 followed shortly after the Big Ten’s decision and the two Power Five conferences’ decisions were preceded by the Mid-American Conference and the Mountain West Conference’s decisions to postpone fall sports.
But six other conferences at the top level of college football are playing this fall. The ACC begins play this weekend along with the Big 12 and the SEC is set to play on Sept. 26. Instead of postponing their seasons indefinitely, the conferences simply delayed the start of their seasons while going to schedules even heavier with conference games.
The decisions by the conferences that are playing seem at odds with the decisions by the conferences that postponed. And that dichotomy has been frequently pointed out regarding the Big Ten’s decision.
The Pac-12 released its medical report when it announced that it had postponed its season. That report outlined the potential and unknown long-term health effects for those that contract COVID-19 and the rate of coronavirus cases within the conference’s footprint. Schools in California and Oregon have still not been cleared by state health officials to have contact practices. A Pac-12 season simply couldn’t start in September.
The Big Ten was less clear when explaining its decision. While there’s absolutely no reason to doubt the conference’s assertions that the decision was made for health reasons, it did not release a similar health document to the Pac-12 at the time of its postponement decision.
Coaches have been speaking out
Day is not the first coach to independently push for the Big Ten to get the season started soon. A group of coaches including Day were part of a push that became public two weeks ago to get the season to start in November. And there were even recent rumblings about an October start for the conference. But that’s unrealistic for a number of factors.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh even participated in a march to let teams play as soon as possible over the weekend. At the march, Harbaugh said his team could be ready to play in two weeks.
Thursday morning, Penn State coach James Franklin said he was frustrated with the Big Ten’s communication and had many of the same sentiments as Day.
“It’s been challenging, as you guys know,” Franklin said in an ESPN Radio interview (via 247 Sports). “I think the big challenge as the head football coach is that your players and your parents think that you have all the answers to what’s going on, but the reality is, we’re dependent on the Big Ten to drive this thing forward. It’s been challenging. It truly has. In terms of where we’re at, I’m not really sure. I think that’s part of the problem. To me, I’ve said this from the beginning, I don’t necessarily have an issue with the decision. I got an issue with the process, and I got an issue with the timing. To be able to stand up in front of your team and parents and tell them that the season is canceled/postponed, but not have any answers as to how that affects their future and when we will be playing football and still haven’t a month later. That’s the hard part. It’s been really, really challenging. I think a big part of leadership is to be able to deliver answers to people’s questions and also to be able to drive people towards a vision and drive people towards a plan. Right now, we don’t have those things.”
Penn State announced Wednesday that it had suspended workouts in multiple sports after nearly 50 people had tested positive for coronavirus. Football workouts were not affected.
Big Ten responded to lawmakers Wednesday
The pressure for the Big Ten to play has even gotten political. Even President Donald Trump has urged the conference to play as soon as possible, perhaps realizing that Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania are pivotal Electoral College states in November.
Legislators in five Big Ten states sent a letter to the conference urging it to play as soon as possible this week. Wednesday, the Big Ten responded to that letter and said that it was also eager to resume sports when it was safe to do so. The conference did not, however, provide a timeline in that response.
“We could not agree more with the group of midwest legislators who stated in a letter to Commissioner Kevin Warren that the Big Ten Conference is ‘one 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 conference said in a statement.
“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 Cancellors as it has always done to identify opportunities to resume competition as soon as it is safe to do so.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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