A Penn State spring football season in the Big Ten should become more clear in the next week or so.
That’s what university athletic director Sandy Barbour could offer when meeting the media Monday afternoon on a video conference call for the first time since the league abruptly canceled its football and fall sports seasons.
While any reclamation of a 2020 season appears unlikely, she said head football coach James Franklin is on a Big Ten committee to study spring football viability. She pointed out how he “loves his players, he loves them as young men, he loves them as student-athletes and as competitors and he aches for them.”
But she provided few details as to the reasoning and timing of the Big Ten’s announcement that has continued to leave players, parents and fans at Penn State and around the league pushing for more transparency.
While the Big Ten and Pac-12 canceled their fall seasons last Tuesday, the other Power 5 leagues continue a cautious march toward playing by the end of September.
When asked if Penn State voted for the Big Ten decision to cancel fall sports, Barbour said she wasn’t even sure a vote was held by league commissioner Kevin Warren and university presidents.
When asked twice more on the call about the workings of such a crucial decision, she said this: “I’m sure the sense of the room was a certain direction and everybody felt like, in unison, that this was the right thing …
“That’s hard for me, I wasn’t in the room. I don’t know what to tell you. I know every president and chancellor moved forward and told their athletic directors that was the decision.”
While Big Ten officials canceled fall seasons because of an apparent myriad of health and safety concerns around COVID-19, details of such have still not been released. Particularly in regards to how that medical information relates to the stringent protocols Big Ten teams had put in place to prepare for a season and how university student bodies are being welcomed back in the ensuing weeks.
More than 80 Penn State football parents signed a letter sent to the Big Ten commissioner seeking more information about postponing football and a reinstatement of the schedule.
In it, the parents ask for clarification regarding what changed between the conference’s Aug. 5 schedule release and the decision to postpone the season six days later.
“The Big Ten and other Power 5 Universities have committed to putting in the financial resources and time needed to get it right. They have succeeded. Why can’t we at least try to have a season?” the letter states.
Parents representing players from Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan and Ohio State sent similar letters.
Meanwhile, Ohio State star quarterback Justin Fields started an online petition to reinstate the fall football season (#WeWantToPlay) addressed to Warren, league presidents and athletic directors.
It had accumulated nearly 250,000 signatures since Sunday morning.
As to the timing of the Big Ten’s decision, Barbour only offered this:
That the nature and uncertainty of the coronavirus health and safety concerns were not “going to change in two or three weeks or in a month, otherwise I think they would have held out.
“And they felt it was important to make the decision and to start working on what is the next viable opportunity.”
That would be some sort of spring football season beginning anywhere from January to March and presumably ending in April or May. Limiting practice intensity, she said, may be the key to playing two seasons in the 2021 calendar year.
“I do believe we are looking at releasing the concepts around (a spring season) what we’re working towards in the next week or so,” Barbour said.
The NCAA also is expected to release guidelines in the coming weeks about restrictions and protocols regarding practice and player interactions with coaching staffs without a season this fall.