More details of what led up to the Big Ten’s decision to postpone fall sports have emerged thanks to a lawsuit filed by several Nebraska football players.
In a court filing responding to the Nebraska players’ lawsuit, the Big Ten revealed that there was indeed a vote held by the conference’s presidents and chancellors. The result was an 11-3 margin in favor of postponing fall sports. According to multiple reports, the three universities that opposed the decision were Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State.
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said Aug. 19 that the vote was “overwhelmingly in support” of postponing the season, but an exact tally had not been divulged.
In the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday, the Nebraska players aimed to have the Big Ten’s decision declared as “invalid.” The lawsuit claimed the conference “reached a decision that was not properly voted upon by its Council leadership” and that “has been unwilling and/or unable to produce any records evidencing any such vote.”
Monday’s filing, however, reveals the 11-3 vote which meets the conference’s bylaws that require at least 60 percent of the voting to postpone the season. Nine votes (9/14 is 64 percent) from the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors were required for postponement.
The Nebraska players’ lawsuit also alleged that the conference relied on just one health study in reaching its decision. The lawsuit claimed that “the study relied upon has no clinical significance.”
In response, the Big Ten said Monday that its decision was “based on multiple factors,” including “the input of several medical and infectious disease experts in the best interest of the health and wellness of student-athletes and the surrounding communities among the 14 member institutions.” The Big Ten also cited the medical advice and counsel of its Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and Sports Medicine Committee.
The Big Ten asked Monday that the lawsuit be dismissed.
A Big Ten statement, in part, reads:
“The Big Ten Conference today filed a response in opposition to the motion for expedited discovery filed by eight University of Nebraska football players rejecting each of three assertions.
“The response demonstrates that the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C): 1) voted to postpone the fall sports season; 2) reached an 11-3 decision which far exceeds the 60% threshold required by the Big Ten’s By-Laws; and 3) based its decision on multiple factors including the medical advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.
“The facts are clear that there was indeed a vote that far exceeded the 60% threshold, and the decision by the COP/C was based on the input of several medical and infectious disease experts in the best interest of the health and wellness of student-athletes and the surrounding communities among the 14 member institutions.”
Big Ten vote has been point of contention
On Aug. 19, eight days after the conference announced its postponement, Warren released an open letter providing some details about the league’s decision. He said the conference’s decision was “thorough and deliberative and based on sound feedback, guidance and advice from medical experts.” He pointed to the amount of “unknown health risks” associated with COVID-19, including long-term effects and how the virus can impact one’s heart.
In the letter, Warren clarified that there was a vote and that it was “overwhelmingly” in favor of postponing fall sports and that the decision would “not be revisited.”
As the conference was panned for a lack of transparency, the issue of whether or not the league presidents and chancellors held an official vote was a constant source of contention for players, parents and fans. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields created a petition in an effort to have the decision overturned. Elsewhere, parents of players even went to Big Ten headquarters in suburban Chicago to protest while parents of Nebraska players threatened legal action. That legal action eventually materialized with the lawsuit from the Nebraska players.
Season moving forward in other conferences
The Big Ten was not the only conference to postpone the season. It was joined by the Pac-12, Mid-American and Mountain West. Other conferences, including the ACC, Big 12 and SEC, are carrying forward. The AAC, Conference USA and Sun Belt are also proceeding with several games on tap for the coming weekend.
The Big Ten, meanwhile, has a bunch of ideas for a winter or spring season up for discussion. One idea even would have the season resuming around Thanksgiving, though that particular proposal seems unlikely. A season that starts some time in January is thought to be more realistic.
“The Big Ten Conference continues to share the disappointment that student-athletes and families are feeling. The Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force will continue to be transparent as it actively considers options to get back to competition when it is safe to play,” the conference said Monday.
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