Big Ten football parents criticize Kevin Warren's leadership, renew call for fall season

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

A week after Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren wrote in an open letter that the decision to postpone fall sports, including football, “will not be revisited,” a large group of Big Ten football parents continues to demand the decision be revisited.

In a letter shared Wednesday morning and signed, “Big 10 Parents United,” the group, which met again Tuesday night via Zoom, said it was not satisfied with Warren’s open letter and indicated the parent organizations that have become vocal in the two weeks since his announcement postponing the season have “a total lack of confidence” in his ability to “lead and communicate effectively.”

Kevin Warren

Warren said the decision to postpone was based on continued concerns for the health and well-being of fall sports athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, he offered no specifics why the decision was made or whether there was a vote among university presidents. The Pac-12 also postponed the season the same day as the Big Ten but publicly shared the medical data that informed its decision. Three of the Power Five conferences continue to forge on toward a fall football season.

The parent groups have become louder and louder and parent representatives from every Big Ten team, with the exception of Wisconsin and Minnesota, share an aligned message, as the parents said Tuesday night on their call. A large group of Michigan parents, with at least 90 football families on board, have sent a letter to Warren, as have several Big Ten parent groups, most notably Nebraska, Iowa and Ohio State.

Last Friday, Randy Wade, father of OSU cornerback Shaun Wade, flew from Florida to Chicago and went to the Big Ten headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois, where he was joined by about two dozen Big Ten parents, including Melissa Hutchinson, mother of Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, who hoped to hear from Warren. They didn’t.

Wade has organized another event involving the Ohio State Parents Association Saturday at the Ohio Stadium rotunda, hoping to continue applying pressure on Warren to obtain answers.

More: Former MAC commissioner Rick Chryst: Pandemic is catalyst in reshaping college athletic landscape

The parents in the joint letter Wednesday reiterated their “disappointment in the lack of transparency and communication from the Big Ten.” They also said again they believed the Big Ten football programs have provided the “best environment” for their sons during the pandemic. The parents again pointed out that Warren’s son is a football player at Mississippi State, part of the Southeastern Conference, which is still planning to play this fall.

“You and your family personally assessed that Mississippi State and the SEC were equipped to safely care for your son and therefore you made the decision to support his continued participation,” the parents wrote. “Surely, the organization you lead is at least equipped to do the same.

“This correspondence is intended to convey the total lack of confidence in the Big Ten Conference’s leadership, specifically the lack of planning, collaboration and/or communication. Again, we completely understand that this pandemic is unprecedented and requires careful consideration. That said, it is extremely frustrating that the Big Ten has failed to properly communicate in a transparent manner. Our intention, at this point, is to provide a pathway forward to a successful 2020 Big Ten football season.”

The Big Ten parents are working with lawyer Tom Mars, who successfully secured immediate eligibility for transfer quarterbacks Shea Patterson to Michigan and Justin Fields to Ohio State, among many others. Mars has blanketed Big Ten schools with open-records requests in an effort to get to answers for the parents.

Twitter: @chengelis