For the second time in eight days, a group of about 30 parents gathered together for a rally to protest the Big Ten’s decision to postpone the 2020 football season.
This time, however, all the parents were of Ohio State athletes, while they were also joined by about 200 Buckeye fans and even some Ohio State staff members – including offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and director of player personnel Mark Pantoni – as they brought the fight to Columbus for a Saturday morning rally in the rotunda on the north end of Ohio Stadium.
Randy Wade, who led Saturday’s rally as well as the one held last Friday outside Big Ten headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois, said he thought the first protest – which didn’t draw as many fans as he had hoped – served as a “firestarter” for a bigger crowd to come to the Shoe this weekend and make their voices heard that they want to see the Buckeyes play this fall.
“That protest got a lot of media exposure,” Wade, the father of Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade, said after Saturday’s rally. “I was on ESPN. They talked about it on CNN. I got interviewed all over the country. And it’s not about me. It’s just about getting the movement out there.
“The fact that I’m just a parent of a player, I’m nobody, and Buckeye fans are supporting me like this and want to take pictures with me and all this kind of stuff, it shows how much they love Buckeye football, how much they want a season, how much they got the backs of these kids.”
Wade, who targeted his message at the first rally toward Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and the lack of communication from the conference, said Saturday that he and the Football Parents at Ohio State group are now seeking a meeting with new Ohio State president Kristina Johnson, hoping that will encourage parents of football players from other schools to demand the same from their university presidents.
“We know Ohio State did everything they could, but we’d like to be a catalyst for these other schools,” Wade said. “So if we can talk to our president, they should be able to talk to their president, because there’s a lack of transparency going on.”
Amanda Babb, the stepmother of Ohio State wide receiver Kamryn Babb and president of Football Parents at Ohio State, also played a key role in organizing Saturday’s event. During her address to the crowd on hand, Babb called for transparency on what happened between the Big Ten’s conference-only schedule release on Aug. 5 and its decision to postpone the season on Aug. 11.
“We think that the commissioner and the presidents of the universities owe it to us as parents, they owe it to you as fans, they owe it to the players, that’s what we want,” Babb said. “We want that communication. Ultimately, we want to play. We should be given that opportunity to compete in the College Football Playoff, and to compete for a national championship. I think we have the best team out there.”
While Babb said after the rally that she thought the discussions about the Big Ten potentially playing in November was a sign that the pressure they and parents at other schools are putting on the conference is working, she was also one of numerous parents who said that’s not enough, as a season that starts around Thanksgiving likely wouldn’t come with the opportunity to compete in the CFP.
“It’s better than January, but I don’t think it’s the best option,” said Corey Teague, the father of running back Master Teague III. “I think that if we can say (Thanksgiving), I think we can also look at a month from now. We can also look at a month and two weeks from now. Because the things that already happened, some of the teams have been doing, they can continue to do and perfect those things and have a season before Thanksgiving. So I think it’s progress, but I think we can push for an earlier season.”
Gee Scott Sr., the father of freshman wide receiver Gee Scott Jr., said he believes it’s just as safe for the Buckeyes to play now as it would be to play in November or in the winter or spring.
“COVID’s here. It’s no secret, it’s here. It’ll be here in October, it’ll be here in January, it’ll be here in the spring of 2021,” Scott said. “If we are to say that we are to live with a new normal, this is our new normal. Our new normal is that we try to do the best that we can. And so with that being said, I think the time to play is now.”
Scott, who flew in from the state of Washington to participate, was perhaps the most passionate speaker of Saturday’s rally. While he, like Babb, questioned why the fall season was canceled less than a week after the Big Ten released a new schedule, he also spent much of his speech talking about how much the football season means to Buckeye fans, inspired in part by an interaction he had Saturday with a longtime Ohio State fan named Linda who has been attending games for 53 years.
“What we’re finding out right now, we’re finding out about Buckeye Nation, and the truth is Buckeye Nation is hurting,” Scott Sr. said. “But let me tell you what Miss Linda did. Miss Linda came over and asked me if she could pray with us. So let me get to it: Help me understand, help us all understand … help us understand why it is that you came to us four days after the schedule was released, you yanked the season and you did not say ‘This is what you need to do,’ because true leadership tells you what happened, why it happened and what we need to do better going forward.”
Ms. Linda, thank you so much for coming over and praying with us before the event started. You telling me that you havent missed a Buckeye game in 53 years touched me. Also, the fact that you came over to pray over me is another example of why this world needs football. https://t.co/9fkejxtHw5— Gee Scott (@GeeScottSr) August 29, 2020
Other parents who spoke on Saturday included Kyle Borland, the father of fifth-year senior linebacker Tuf Borland, and Andrea Tate, the mother of junior cornerback Sevyn Banks, who were both also at last week’s protest in Illinois. Borland said in his speech that he wanted to make it clear that their issues were not with Ohio State, who he believes has done all it could to allow the Buckeyes to play this fall, but with the Big Ten and with the university presidents and chancellors who have failed to be transparent about why they voted against playing this fall.
“We are so proud of Coach Day and his staff, Gene Smith, and everything that they’ve done to put (the players) in the best possible situation they could possibly be in given the current situation,” Borland said. “Our beef is not at all with Ohio State University, we want to make that very clear. Our beef is with the Big Ten. Our beef is with university presidents … we want to know what the criteria and what the methodology you’re using to make those play or no play decisions.”
Monica Johnson, the mother of freshman offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr., expressed disappointment that the Big Ten made the decision to postpone the season without having a plan in place for what would happen next.
“Paris committed not only to Ohio State, but he committed to the Big Ten conference,” Johnson said. “He made a commitment. So where’s the commitment from the Big Ten to our players? Where’s that commitment?
“I have taught my son Paris and my daughter Sydney, do not come to me with your problem. When you come to me with a problem, you come with a solution. The (Big Ten) did not come with a solution. They presented a problem and walked away. So where is the solution? What is the next step?”
The football parents were also joined at Saturday’s protest by the parents of several Ohio State baseball players, including the parents of star pitcher Seth Lonsway. His father Donovan spoke about the disappointment his son felt when his season was canceled this spring.
“We feel your pain,” Lonsway said. “The sacrifice our student-athletes make, the commitment, I heard it in my son’s voice when they canceled the season. A 21-year-old man, he got very, very emotional on the phone, and your heart breaks when you have to hear that from your child.”
Tate said after the rally that she wanted people to know the football parents are not only fighting for their sons to be able to play this fall, but for athletes in all fall sports to get the opportunity to compete, as well. And she hopes that even more parents from other sports will join the football parents if they have additional gatherings in the future.
“We encourage everybody, any time we get together like this, let’s show up,” Tate said. “It’s gonna be hard. It’s not easy. It costs money. It’s not cheap. But when we come together, we’re hoping for a solution. We’re hoping for what we’re asking. And that’s all you can do.”