Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, has only been on the job for less than eight months and he’s facing the biggest crisis in the roughly 125-year history of the conference, the oldest collegiate athletic conference in Division I of the NCAA.
The Pac-12 and Big Ten have announced that they are canceling all sports until the end of the year and will attempt to play the football season in the Spring. Other major conferences. will follow. There will be some rogue teams such as Nebraska who fight to the bitter end, maybe even threaten to jump ship to another conference for a season, to play a Fall college football season.
Warren says he’s not having it and the Big Ten stands united in its decision.
Big 10 Commissioner Kevin Warren was asked yesterday if Nebraska could play college football this fall, he gave an answer that would make his hardline predecessor nod with approval.
“No,” he said, firmly. “Not and be a member of the Big Ten Conference.”
— SCG FFL (@scgffl) August 12, 2020
The ACC, SEC, and Big 12 say a September start plan hasn’t changed and protocols are working. Science, NCAA administrators, media and public sentiment, however, say they are fighting a losing cause. You can’t find a scientist, doctor, or public health official that would suggest that the College Football season be played without players contracting the virus.
Everyone has an opinion and nobody is truly happy about the outcome. Billions of dollars are sure to be lost. Football income produced more than 60 percent of operating revenues for Power 5 public schools in 2019. Local businesses that thrive when the college teams in Ohio and Indiana and Minnesota are in season, will take a major hit. The comradery and tribal culture and sense of community associated with the festival that is Saturday college football will also be lost.
Revisionist theorists blast the NCAA and its leader Mark Emmert for a lack of leadership. They say College Football had since March to formulate a uniform plan to get a Fall COVID-19 season in. It appears as if most universities sat on their hands and hoped that the pandemic would go away.
Warren, who says there’s “too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks” to have a Fall season, is considered one of those leaders who failed to take earlier action and he has become a target of misplaced frustration as well.
We know the pandemic isn’t Warren’s fault. And we know the final decision wasn’t autonomously his. He hasn’t even been commissioner long enough to establish great influence over the various university hierarchies. Plus, this is an unprecedented situation and when you have different players, coaches, administrators and teams pulling in opposite directions on an issue, it makes it almost impossible to manage.
Warren did the most responsible thing and shut it down. His decision is extremely unpopular among players who started a #wewanaplay movement as Power 5 conference chancellors met to decide the fate of thousands of student-athletes.
He also could have dragged out the process into September and pandered to the people who want to play.
— Josh Klein (@JoshRKlein) August 12, 2020
He didn’t. He made the tough call when passions and emotions were high and opinions were fractured. Isn’t that what you want leaders to do?
Word on the streets is that Warren is so respected nationally, many view him as the next commissioner of the NFL. He’d be the first Black man to hold that coveted post as well.
People need someone to blame. Warren didn’t make this decision by himself and we know that situations with COVID-19 are fluid as the numbers change every day all around the country.
When Warren went on Big Ten Network and gave the impression that the conference was moving forward with a fall schedule and touted that the league had proper safety protocols in place, that was what he thought the situation was at the time.
Things changed over the next five days and there were a lot of moving parts. Bashing the Big Ten commissioner won’t make COVID-19 go away or save the Fall season. Sometimes leadership means giving a hard no.
Warren is an attorney and people have accused him of only caring about the financial liability at stake and not the welfare of the student-athletes. If only it was that easy for a commissioner that is standing tall in the face of criticism, remaining calm and level headed and trying his best to prepare every day in a totally unpredictable time, where information and situations concerning COVID-19 change daily.