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Big Ten responds to Michigan pols: We want to play, too, but when 'it is safe'

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The Big Ten has a response for the politicians who want football back:

Join the club.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, the conference acknowledged receiving a letter from a group of Midwest political leaders who wrote to commissioner Kevin Warren a day earlier that sports should resume.

The Big Ten football season is on hold -- possibly until the spring.

Among the politicians who signed the letter: Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey. Politicians from Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin also signed the letter.

"We could not agree more with the group of Midwest legislators," the Big Ten said in a statement Wednesday. "The letter reflects that we all want the same thing, which is for 'sports to continue safely.' The conference will continue to work with the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C), as it has always done, to identify opportunities to resume competition as soon as it is safe to do so."

The Big Ten decided in early August to postpone all fall sports, including football, with an eye on a possible spring football season. The Big Ten later said, in court documents in Nebraska, that its presidents and chancellors voted 11-3 to postpone, though at least two presidents have said publicly there was no vote.

Since the announcement, there have been protests, letters to the Big Ten from parents (including Michigan), and a petition by Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.

Then, last week, the issue became political, with President Trump announcing on Twitter he had a conversation with Warren, and said a return to play was on the "one-yard line." Warren acknowledged the chat, but suggested there is no looming to decision to play. Accurate and affordable rapid testing remains the biggest holdup.

Trump then tweeted this week that the Big Ten could resume play, but without the teams from Michigan, Illinois and Maryland, because their governors were holding up play.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, appearing Wednesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," said the decision was the Big Ten's alone, but that she supported it. Michigan is allowing football, with the Lions set to open the season, albeit with no fans, Sunday against the Chicago Bears, and high schools preparing to play, as well.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 are the two Power Five conferences that have postponed fall sports; the SEC, ACC and Big 12 continue to prepare for a fall season.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984