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Justin Fields starts online petition as Big Ten parents question decision to postpone football

Justin Fields says the decision on fall football is “close to my heart.” (Paul Sancya/AP)
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Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields has taken his fight to play football in the fall online, asking that the Big Ten Conference change its decision to push the season to the spring because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Parents of players also are pushing for a reversal and demanding an explanation for the move.

Saying that “this cause is close to my heart,” Fields had gotten more than 200,000 signatures by the end of Sunday night for a “We Want to Play” petition urging the Big Ten to change its decision. “We, the football players of the Big Ten, together with the fans and supporters of college football, request that the Big Ten Conference immediately reinstate the 2020 football season. Allow Big Ten players/teams to make their own choice as to whether they wish to play or opt out this fall season. Allow Big Ten players/teams who choose to opt out of playing a fall season to do so without penalty or repercussion.”

Parents of Ohio State, Iowa and Penn State players asked that the Big Ten reconsider its decision and questioned the conference’s leadership during the coronavirus pandemic in letters to Commissioner Kevin Warren. A letter from Iowa parents was hand-delivered to conference offices in Chicago on Friday, and on Saturday letters from parents of players at the other two schools were shared with ESPN.

“The Big Ten had months to develop a strategic plan but instead chose to leave it up to each individual school creating confusion, inconsistency and no plan of action,” the letter stated, according to ESPN’s Heather Dinich. “There is time to fix the wrongdoings and come out as leaders. We strongly encourage the Big Ten to reconsider playing the fall college football season, develop a plan of meaningful action and letting these young adults be included in the decision-making process.”

The Big Ten became the first Power Five conference to postpone its season last week and was followed quickly by the Pac-12; the other three top-tier conferences (the SEC, ACC and Big 12) plan to continue with fall football.

Parents of Iowa players asked to meet with Warren to “get direct answers and to have a say in the decision-making process,” asking how the school went so quickly from having players practice to pushing back the season.

Corey Teague, the father of Ohio State running back Master Teague III, told ESPN the process was “unacceptable. It’s something that needs more explanation because when you go in a certain direction and days later it changes and no one has spoken to anyone else and players weren’t able to be involved in this decision — and the protocols that were put in by Ohio State were very successful. It’s unfortunate, and I don’t know if it’s shortsightedness there, lack of leadership, but it’s definitely something that needs to be rectified, and more dialogue needs to happen. It’s just a very messy situation, and we want to clean it up.”

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In a letter to Warren, Kristina Miller, the mother of Ohio State offensive lineman Harry Miller, wrote that she learned about the postponement through media reports rather than the conference.

“There’s been no communication, no transparency, nothing to say what has changed in the last five days that we give you your schedule and we cancel the season within five days,” she told ESPN. “There’s been nothing.”

The Penn State Football Parents Association demanded answers from the school, specifically about the six days in which the Big Ten went from announcing its fall schedule to moving back fall sports.

“We want to know what changed in six days and why was this decision rushed before the Big Ten Conference and NCAA could answer some of the most basic questions regarding the future of these student-athletes,” the parents wrote to Penn State President Eric Barron and Warren in a letter with more than 90 signatures.

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The parents added, “We deserve answers as to whether these decisions are based on science or the avoidance of liability.”

Last week, the parents of Michigan players were stunned by the decision to move the season. “I can’t believe we are here,” Peach Pagano, mother of Michigan captain Carlo Kemp, said (via the Detroit News). “I can’t believe that this happened, honestly, that they wouldn’t even give us a shot to get through Game 1. In my mind, I’m like, ‘Let’s just get one game under our belt.’ ”

“One game,” Lisa McCaffrey, mother of Michigan quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, echoed. Another son, Luke, plays at Nebraska.

Although Warren was the focus of the attention, the decision was made by university presidents after they conferred with medical advisers. As for Warren, his son attends a school that will play football this fall. Powers Warren is a redshirt junior tight end at Mississippi State.