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Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren declined to answer if Tuesday’s decision to postpone football and other fall sports was unanimous.
Nebraska cleared that mystery up in a hurry. As did Ohio State.
It was not.
When asked by the Big Ten Network’s Dave Revsine after Tuesday’s announcement, Warren had this to say.
‘We don’t always agree’
Big 10 Commissioner Kevin Warren: "We don't always agree...but we will be together in the Big 10." Warren will not answer if Nebraska or other universities can play elsewhere. pic.twitter.com/IyECtHyP8M
— Baillie Burmaster (@bayburmTV) August 11, 2020
“Our schools, we don’t always agree,” Warren said. “But I think people understand — and I take that from a passionate standpoint — that we will be together in the Big Ten. So I just think it’s important to make that very clear.
“I would rather not have a detailed discussion about your question about ‘is the vote unanimous or not unanimous?’”
That’s a longwinded “no.” If the answer was yes, Warren would have said so.
Nebraska’s stark retort
But to clear up any ambiguity about the existence of a united front among member schools, Nebraska released this statement co-signed by chancellor Ronnie Green, athletic director Bill Moos, football coach Scott Frost and university system president Ted Carter.
“We are very disappointed by the Big Ten Conference to postpone the fall football season, as we have been and continue to be ready to play,” the statement read.
“Safety comes first. Based on the conversations with our medical experts, we continue to strongly believe the absolute safest place for our student athletes is within the rigorous safety protocols, testing procedures and the structure and support provided by Husker Athletics.”
There is, of course, nothing preventing Nebraska from providing its student-athletes that structure and support just because they’re not playing this fall. But that’s another discussion.
Ohio state preferred a ‘delay’
Ohio State athletic director also responded to the decision. While not as pointed as Nebraska, Smith made clear that he and OSU president-elect Kristina Johnson preferred a different option.
“This is an incredibly sad day for our student-athletes, who have worked so hard and been so vigilant fighting against this pandemic to get this close to their season,” Smith wrote. “My heart aches for them and their families.
“President-elect Johnson and I were totally aligned in our efforts to delay the start of the season rather than postpone. I am so grateful to her for all her efforts in support of our student-athletes and a traditional fall season.”
Smith also presented a pragmatic approach to the challenge football faces with the coronavirus in a separate statement to the Big Ten Network.
“The reality is the game is not like sitting in a classroom,” Smith said. “It's not like walking across campus. It's not like wearing masks while you're in a lab. It's full contact.”
Barry Alvarez on board
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez has been one of the league’s most outspoken and open leaders in the run-up to Tuesday’s decision. The former Badgers football coach told Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel last week “I’m afraid”
Alvarez, whose grandson Jake Ferguson plays tight end for Wisconsin, expressed a similar sentiment to Smith’s in terms of the reality of playing football amid an airborne pandemic.
"Sports are simply different from other campus activities,” Alvarez said in a statement . “There is no way to preserve physical distancing during competition, and masking can make competition very difficult.
“There are also a variety of unknowns about the interaction of COVID-19 with extreme physical exertion. As a result, playing the fall season would pose risks that we think are not acceptable for our student-athletes and our athletic staff.”
With a decision this significant attached to massive stakes in terms of public health and revenue, unanimity can’t be expected. It’s not a surprise that leadership at different schools has different opinions.
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