News and Commentary

Report: Gretchen Whitmer Is Sinking Ohio State’s Hopes For A Big Ten Restart
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren speaks about the cancellation of the men's Big 10 basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on March 12, 2020. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is reportedly railroading attempts by Ohio State to organize a mini-Big Ten fall football season.

Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith has been trying to scrape together a last-minute agreement between six Big Ten teams to hold a 10-game fall football season, according to reporter Jeff Snook. Iowa, Nebraska, and Penn State have signed on to the plan, but Smith needs Michigan and Wisconsin as well to make it work.

“This group needed ‘to flip’ the presidents at Michigan and Wisconsin to agree to play, or the new format wouldn’t be feasible,” Snook said in a Thursday Facebook post, quoting a source. “If either of those school’s presidents or both, refused to budge and made that clear to their athletic directors within the last ‘24 to 48 hours,’ then Smith’s efforts concerning the new plan went nowhere and died.”

“I also was also told that one roadblock to the new plan is the fact that Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been vehemently opposed to football being played – at the high school and college level – in the state this fall,” Snook said. “Ohio Governor Mike DeWine gave his blessing to all sports being played this fall on Tuesday.”

To update you on my report from late last night that Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith was working to salvage a…

Posted by Jeff Snook on Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Whitmer said on May 15 that “we can have sports,” but “the way we observe them might look different for a while.” So far, though, she has been reluctant to take the state out of lockdown and has consistently threatened to undo some retractions in the strict regulations she began instituting in March. In some cases, Whitmer has reinstituted her mandates or taken them a step farther.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) canceled fall football throughout the state on Aug. 14. College sports programs at all levels of play have called off fall sports across the state.

Ohio State’s attempts to resurrect the fall season come as backlash is building against the Big Ten conference and commissioner Kevin Warren, who maintains that the conference board’s decision to cancel all fall sports will not be revisited. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields has pushed an online petition to pressure the Big Ten to restart the season. The petition has nearly 290,000 signatures.

Experts have also questioned the Big Ten’s stated reasoning for calling off the fall football season, which relied heavily on a study about COVID-19’s impact on the heart. The study purports to show that the disease increases the chance of myocarditis, a rare heart condition. University of Michigan cardiologist Dr. Venk Murthy has questioned the study’s efficacy and said it contains “rampant abnormalities among normal controls” and “many statistic[s] (sic) that make no sense.”

The parents of football players in programs across the Big Ten have also written into university athletics programs questioning the Big Ten’s decision.

“We, as parents of Nebraska Cornhusker football players, are writing this letter to express our displeasure in the recent decision to postpone the 2020 fall sports season,” one letter says. “Although we appreciate the committee’s efforts in this matter, we have questions concerning the facts and data behind this decision. Second, we would like to voice our concerns for our sons’ mental and physical well being in regards to this decision. Finally, we would like to urge you to seek out a formal plan that includes input from players and coaches from each institution regarding decisions of this nature.”

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