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Lawmakers from six Big Ten states, including Pa., want conference to reconsider decision

NATHAN BAIRD
Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland (TNS)
Minnesota Vikings chief operating officer Kevin Warren talks to reporters after being named Big Ten Conference Commissioner during a news conference Tuesday, June 4, 2019, in Rosemont, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As The Big Ten Conference continues its deliberations about when and how to next play football, political attention continues to mount.

A group of 10 lawmakers from six Big Ten states — including Pennsylvania — sent a letter to league Commissioner Kevin Warren asking for the decision to cancel fall football to be reconsidered. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg reported the letter was also sent to the 11 presidents and chancellors who voted to cancel the fall season.

The letter said the lawmakers were prompted to act after hearing from many “students, parents and coaches” and felt it was their responsibility to “defend the students’ long-term academic and career interests.”

“Recent action taken by other conferences across the country to start football and other falls sports has placed the Big Ten, its members and students at a disadvantage,” said the letter, co-signed by lawmakers from Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“These athletes are losing a vital part of student life and are becoming less marketable to future employers with each passing week. Additionally, our local universities stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars that support vital student scholarships.”

The Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted 11-3 on Aug. 11 to play no fall sports due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. At the time the decision was termed a postponement, with those seasons potentially pushed back into the winter or spring.

Nearly one week has passed since President Donald Trump spoke with Warren by phone about possible federal assistance with testing to help bring football back this fall. The Big Ten’s acknowledged the call happened but set no timeline for the next stage of its planning for a replacement football season.

President Trump again tweeted on Friday, suggesting the Big Ten could be playing football now if not for the “lack of political support” from the governors of Illinois, Maryland and Michigan.

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, chair of the Big Ten’s return to competition task force, told his school’s athletic council last week that more medical information was being gathered to share with the presidents and chancellors.

The Big Ten has operated without much public comment since the cancellation vote. Warren released a letter one week later saying the decision “will not be revisited” and introducing the task force and other subcommittees in charge of planning the response. Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson also serves on the return to competition task force.