Michigan parent joins protest group seeking answers from Big Ten

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Melissa Hutchinson arrived at Big Ten headquarters in Rosemont, Ill., after catching an early flight from Detroit on Friday, dressed in what she typically wears to a Michigan football game day to support her son, defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, and the team.

There she joined about 30 parents from Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin as they rallied behind Randy Wade, the father of OSU defensive back Shaun Wade, who flew from Florida to Chicago to request answers from Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren regarding the decision to cancel the fall football season.

Aidan and Melissa Hutchinson

Hutchinson also wore her specially made mask that features her son in a photo from a game. He’s holding his finger up.

“Like he’s saying, ‘Shame on you, Kevin Warren,’” Hutchinson said. “I wore that on purpose.”

She was the lone representative of the Wolverine parents. Along with her husband, Chris Hutchinson, a 1992 Michigan football captain and All-American who is now an emergency room physician at Royal Oak Beaumont, they have been outspoken regarding their disappointment in the season cancellation and the lack of solid reasons why the Big Ten ultimately made the decision. Chris Hutchinson has said he wants to see the medical data the Big Ten used to inform its decision.

The Big Ten last week announced the cancellation of all fall sports because of lingering concerns regarding COVID-19. Six days earlier, the conference had revealed a 10-game football schedule that was set to kick off Labor Day weekend. The conference currently is working toward a winter/spring football schedule.

“I am glad I went because I couldn’t imagine if Michigan weren’t there,” Melissa Hutchinson said. “We’ve got 90 families strong behind us. It’s important to the parents. Our parents are supportive and all-in.”

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Since the announcement, parent groups from a number of schools around the conference have sent letters to Warren requesting an audience to find out in detail what went into the decision. A letter from Michigan parents, who demanded a reversal of the decision among other key points, was sent Monday. And OSU quarterback Justin Fields started an on-line “#WeWanttoPlay” petition last Sunday that has nearly 300,000 signatures.

Warren on Wednesday released an open letter that shed some light on the Big Ten decision and said the university presidents and chancellors were “overwhelmingly in support” of postponing the season and said the decision would not be revisited.

Still, Wade and the parents at the protest want more transparency and answers to questions. Wade reportedly told reporters covering the event the letter did not have much bulk and wants Warren to meet with the parent representatives from each school to answer their questions via video conferencing.

“Across the board, everybody felt the same way,” Hutchinson said. “Was it testing? Say it. Give us some detail. Was it fear of litigation? Say it. And the fact we didn’t hear from him for a week and a half …”

Hutchinson doesn’t know whether the parents’ peaceful protest near the Big Ten headquarters will force Warren to address their concerns, but she could not imagine not supporting her son and his team and representing the other Michigan parents.

“Any time that you attend an event or you get your voice out, there’s nothing to lose at this point, right?” she said. “I hope this is all worth it.”