When Randy Wade saw the petition Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields created Sunday in an effort to convince the Big Ten to reinstate its 2020 football season, Wade decided he needed to find a way to take action himself.
Wade had signed Fields’ petition, which now has over 260,000 signatures. He shared the letter sent to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren by Football Parents at Ohio State which also called on the conference to reconsider its decision.
But he decided that wasn’t enough.
So on Monday night, Wade booked a flight from his home state to Florida to Chicago, where he’ll arrive on Thursday with plans to lead what he called a “peaceful show of force” outside the Big Ten’s headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois, at 8 a.m. Friday.
“Just talking with my son, talking to Ohio State coaches and the final straw was just Justin Fields and that petition. The fact that he took it upon himself to make a petition, and I’m like as a parent, what can I do?” Wade told Eleven Warriors on Tuesday. “I just thought that no matter how many people signed that petition that the Big Ten might not answer, so if we go up there in some kind of a force, make them speak to us.”
See ya "Early Friday Morning" We gotta Fight and we can't let these young men FIGHT ALONE.... ALL BIG TEN FANS STAND UP.... pic.twitter.com/qjbaQVcRSX— Randy L Wade% f@Ly..... (@gslsff) August 18, 2020
Wade’s son, Shaun, doesn’t need to play this fall to be a potential first-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft. He could have already been an early-round pick if he entered the 2020 NFL draft, and he just graduated from Ohio State earlier this month, so his future will still be bright if the Big Ten doesn’t reverse its decision and he never plays another snap for the Buckeyes.
But Randy Wade said he isn’t flying to Chicago just because he wants his son to get to play one more season in scarlet and gray. He’s making the trip because he recognizes that players throughout the Big Ten – many of who do need an opportunity to play this fall to maximize their NFL draft stock – were impacted by the conference’s decision to postpone the season to the spring, which Wade believes is not a viable solution.
“This is not necessarily about Shaun; it’s about the whole Big Ten and the fact that the Big Ten is one of the biggest conferences as far as money and stuff like that. I just think they can think out of the norm and come up with a better way to support these kids,” Wade said. “If Shaun don’t play this year, he has a good chance, God willing, to go in the first round. But there’s other kids that haven’t played that’s been waiting all their life for this moment, and to take it away in one weekend, it seems like one weekend, is just insane almost.”
As the ACC, Big 12 and SEC continue to move toward trying to play this fall despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Wade believes the Big Ten acted too quickly in calling off the season, and he – like so many other parents, players, coaches and fans – wants answers from the conference about why that decision was made when it was, just six days after the conference had released a new schedule for the 2020 football season.
“It feels like everything happened in one week,” Wade said. “You can get advice from all the medical advisors. You can do more research. All you have to do is move things back. And the second thing is because of heart conditions and underlying conditions, what’s gonna change in the spring? What’s gonna change next year? COVID-19 might be the new norm. As Americans, we shouldn’t live in fear. We should just adjust safely.”
Wade said he planned on inviting parents from schools throughout the Big Ten to join him at Friday’s protest, and at least one Iowa parent – Gary Koerner, whose son Jack plays for the Hawkeyes – plans to make the trip to Chicago, as well.
#Iowahawkeyes will be there too.— Gary Koerner (@koerner_gary) August 18, 2020
Wade is also encouraging fans of Big Ten football teams to wear their jerseys and join him at the conference headquarters on Friday.
Ideally, Wade is hoping Warren and the Big Ten will start answering questions about last week’s decision before Friday, in which case Wade would call off the protest. But if they continue to remain silent for the next three days, he believes an in-person demonstration can provide the necessary pressure to at least start a conversation with the conference.
“It shows through history. Any time people join together and show concern for something and really have a passion for it, people have to talk, people have to have a reaction to it,” Wade said. “They can’t just pick sides. They have to come out of wherever they’re at and communicate.
“It only takes one person to light a match. And once you get that fire going, they gotta do something. These kids have dreams, and they’ve got goals, and they’re student-athletes, and one part is being taken away from them in a quick moment, and we’ve just gotta fight for it. They came to Ohio State to get an education and to play football. So let’s see if they can play football.”