Kevin Warren was officially commissioner of the Big Ten Conference for less than three months when he stepped onto a podium in the press room of Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. It was just noon on March 11th. He brought no news when he started speaking into the microphone. Everyone gathered already knew that the Big Ten tournament had been canceled.
We all knew what was coming when he played on the Big Ten Network on Tuesday afternoon. The league is said to have postponed their fall sporting season – maybe to spring, maybe to never – and leaked on Twitter in the half hour before he was interviewed by host Dave Revsine. Those who have faint hope that these reports may be premature had their illusions broken when BTN co-host Mike Hall made them official with a report directly from conference headquarters.
It was a hell of a first year for Warren.
Yes, this word fits in every way.
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Warren started working for the Big Ten last September and officially became a commissioner on January 1. What has happened since then? The cancellation of the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament. The cancellation of spring sport 2020. Now perhaps the biggest of them all: the postponement of autumn sport 2020, which includes the most important of all the competitions organized by the conference. Warren’s predecessor, Jim Delany, insisted he not retire when he announced he was leaving the job that had belonged to him for three decades.
Whatever he calls it, he sure had excellent timing.
That was Warren’s job: plan and then cancel. Less than a week earlier, the Big Ten released a modified conference-only football schedule for 2020 that was ingeniously designed. Each team had several goodbye weeks that coincided with those of the last opponents in case the games had to be postponed because of the virus. Warren cautioned at the time the league may not yet start in 2020, but the speed at which those plans have been rolled back has been unfathomable.
Warren chose not to explain exactly what happened in that short period of time to make the Big Ten take such an extraordinary change of direction. Now more is being planned: What to do with two-semester sports, especially basketball and wrestling for men and women, whether a spring soccer season is plausible and how authorization problems are dealt with if a season is not contested?
How do the league’s television partners intend to adjust their schedules if there is to be football in spring? The Big Ten has contracts with ESPN, Fox Sports and BTN. How would such a season be welcomed by participants – and the public -? These are all topics for Warren and his team to consider, and there is at least a chance that they will be doing all of this work to be able to conduct several more interviews that have unfortunately been canceled.
MORE: College Football Cancellations Explained
What is lost in this decision was so evident from the b-roll footage that aired during the BTN broadcast: 107,601 in the Big House; 104,944 on the horseshoe and 106,572 in the Happy Valley. We know those crowds wouldn’t have been there this fall, but these are the lasting images of a college football fall in Big Ten.
There are also the great players who may not be forced to compete in a spring season near the NFL Draft and 2021 NFL season: Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Penn State Pat Freiermuth, or Buckeyes lineman Wyatt Davis.
Warren defended the decision to withdraw the Big Ten from the fall sports competition based on medical advice given to the 14 members of the league.
“As things started to move, look at the number of cases that are increasing, the number of deaths – not just in our country, in our states where many of our schools are, but around the world – is that promise , All of the decisions we make during my tenure here at the Big Ten will always focus on the mental and physical health of our student athletes, ”he said. “We just think there is too much uncertainty right now to really encourage our athletes to take part in the fall sport.”
During the summer months, many who wanted to see college football in the right place on the calendar publicly pleaded for the public to follow the best public health guidelines to fight the virus. We have all seen photos and videotapes from different states in the Big Ten country illustrating the dozen of people unwilling to heed these appeals: a racetrack, a lakeshore, a beach.
It is impossible to imagine that this country is making so little progress in fighting a virus – a virus that has been controlled, contained, and even defeated by countless others – that five months before the day Warren explained why it was There would be no more Big Ten men’s basketball He was back explaining why there would be no Big Ten football in 2020.
In the truest sense of the word, none of this is Warren’s fault. However, it is his problem and will be for a while.