Opinion: As Big Ten prepares to cave to fear, the pushback is encouraging

by Peter Heck · Aug 10th, 2020 5:19 pm
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Last Updated Aug 11th, 2020 at 10:26 am

Did they really not expect the pushback?

Sunday night, it seems that in the name of compassion and concern, 12 college presidents voted to tank the college football season of every one of the Big Ten's 14 schools. While I was disappointed on the one hand, and concerned other conferences would simply fall in lockstep with the decision, I have to admit it was mind boggling to me that they had the guts to do it – particularly while claiming it is being done for the well-being of student-athletes.

Any fair-minded observer acknowledged the decision for what it was: a fear-driven decision. It was an effort by these schools to avoid accountability and blame for what they knew would unquestionably be a woke-media feeding frenzy if there were any team outbreaks. By very definition then, that meant the motivation was selfish, not selfless.

Senator Ben Sasse, in his public letter to the Big Ten Presidents and Chancellors, pointed out as much.

"Here's the reality: Many of you think that football is safer than no football, but you also know that you will be blamed if there is football, whereas you can duck any blame if you cancel football."

Bingo. That's why they moved to cancel football. Even as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis encouraged the SEC and ACC, both conferences with large shares of southern teams, to continue with their plans to play, no one would have been surprised if they chose not to.

Sportswriters from Dan Wolken to Darren Rovell to Gregg Doyle are hunched over their keyboards, poised like gargoyles on the edge of a building, just waiting to unleash a torrent of finger-pointing shame the moment a kid gets sick.

But, of course, what won't they do? They won't write a story about all the Big Ten kids who got sick at the college party they attended rather than going to the team-monitored, socially distanced film session that was cancelled when the season was abandoned.

That was the point that Clemson's all-American quarterback Trevor Lawrence was making when he took to social media in a desperate attempt to stem the media-driven tide swelling towards cancellation. Lawrence joined the hashtag campaign #WeWantToPlay.

And it's not as though this requires speculation. University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, whose team was being shut down for the year, published a statement-of-fact about the effectiveness of the school's ability to contain and manage the situation.

And then, thankfully, the pushback commenced. Athletic directors and coaches across the country began supporting their players' desire to play:

…rational reporters began asking obvious questions:

…the recent #1 pick in the NFL draft began pointing out the obvious impact on careers and livelihoods this decision would have:

…the Big Ten's perennial favorite Ohio State started petitioning for the ability to play in the SEC this year:

…governors began to voice their opposition to canceling:

…and then President Donald Trump jumped in:

And just like that, a follow-up meeting is called:

Understanding who these college presidents are, who influences them, and what they value, I can't say I expect a change in direction. That would require an extraordinary amount of pride-swallowing that those ensconced in the pretentious world of academia avoid like the plague (or COVID?).

Still, even if they don't, today has demonstrated the encouraging reality that not all conferences are likely to cave to selfish fears like the Big Ten, there is a limit to media-generated panic that rational people are willing to take, and that common sense still exists even if it stops short of the admin building on campus.

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