The confusion over why the Big Ten decided to cancel the 2020 football season as abruptly as it did turned into more confusion Monday over whether the presidents and chancellors even voted on the proposal.
Penn State vice president of athletics Sandy Barbour, who was not in on the Aug. 11 Zoom meeting that wiped out the schedule, said it was “unclear” to her whether there was a vote.
“Nobody’s ever told me there was,” Barbour said in a Zoom conference call with reporters. “So I just don’t know whether there actually was a vote by the chancellors and presidents.”
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren told the Big Ten Network after the announcement to cancel that he would “rather not have a detailed discussion on whether the vote was unanimous. This is a decision that was made on a collective basis.”
University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel said last week that “she wouldn’t call it a vote per se,” according to a tweet by Jeff Wald, a reporter for Fox9 News in Minneapolis.
“She called it, ‘a deliberative process where we came to a decision together’ and supported the decision to postpone the season,” the tweet said.
It was just the latest chapter in the way the announcement was handled, six days after the Big Ten released a conference-only schedule for the fall 2020 football season. The lack of a clear explanation of the medical information presented to the Big Ten presidents and of eligibility matters has sparked letters from parents of players at numerous universities, including Penn State.
Parents of Nittany Lions players have asked for the fall season to be reinstated despite the pandemic. Barbour said that is not likely but that she appreciates their passion and “where both their heads and hearts are.”
“The presidents and chancellors made their decision based on science, based on the information from medical experts, based on the concerns and uncertainty in a number of different categories,” she said. “I don’t see that changing.”
Barbour said the focus on football now moves to a spring season, which she sees as “absolutely being viable.” She said the concepts of the proposal could be released in the next week or so.
“We turned our attention to that pretty quickly,” she said. “Along with our coaches and some of our sports science and sports medicine folks, we are far down the road on concepts. Obviously there’s a lot to be done in terms of dotting I’s and crossing T’s. We’ve put something together that I think is very compelling and that our student-athletes and our fans and our communities will be pretty interested in.”
She said a particular focus of a spring season would be practice – how many, how intense, and what kind of practice – along with the number of games and dates so there is enough time separating a spring season from the fall of 2021.
Barbour has said the athletic department could lose as much as $100 million without fall football. Asked Monday about the possibility of the department cutting an athletic program, she didn’t entirely rule it out.
“I’ve got to put everything on the table and then analyze and understand the impacts on our department, on our organization, and then the impacts to the bottom line,” she said. “We’ll have to decide which of those measures we take.”
Barbour said she has spoken this past week with football coach James Franklin, who is expected to make his first public comments on the Big Ten’s decision Wednesday.
“I think you can probably predict what those have been like,” she said. “He loves his players. He loves them as young men, he loves them as student-athletes, he loves them as athletes, he loves them as competitors, and he aches for them. He and his staff have put in incredible work. Like all successful coaches, he’s going to look out for his players, he’s going to fight for them.”