Big Ten's Indecision Of Next Move Has Left Ohio State, Rest Of Conference Perpetually In Wait

By Colin Hass-Hill on September 8, 2020 at 2:42 pm
Ryan Day

Ryan Day is as savvy as anyone when it comes to pushing his thoughts out to the public. The Ohio State head coach understands how the media operates, how to stay on message and how to get people to hear what he’s saying. 

Typically, he has a message he wants to get out every time he steps behind a microphone, which is a mindset that he extends to his players.

“During the season on Tuesday when our guys become available (reporters for interviews), a lot of times I'll meet with them before and just talk to them about my message for the press conference and things they need to hit on,” Day said in June in a conversation with the Ohio State Sports and Society Initiative. 

So when Day’s Zoom press conference on Aug. 12 – six days after he spoke following Ohio State’s first preseason practice and one day after Big Ten postponed the fall football season – progressed, it became clearer by the moment that he hoped people would listen to how hoped the conference would go about its next step. Day’s plan involved starting the football season in January, playing eight games and wrapping it up in time to play a complete fall season later that fall.

He appeared to be all-in on his idea, saying, “I feel pretty strongly about what I’ve said and I’m going to work hard to get it done.” And after an offseason of perpetually waiting for answers only to get the leadup to the season started and have it quashed within less than a week, he had a timeline in mind, too, to get it up and running.

“I think we need to get on this right now and get these guys some answers,” Day said. “It’s got to be weeks; it can’t be months.”

It’s been 27 days since Day’s comments. Twenty-seven days since he divulged his plan.

Since then? Nothing. Nothing concrete from the Big Ten about what’s next for a football season currently in limbo.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren gave in to a mountain of pressure to say something about why his conference pushed back the season to a yet-to-be-determined date and answer questions about when the season will get played by doing the very least: He released an open letter eight days after making the decision. Neither that nor the interviews he gave to a small selection of national reporters did much to placate those seeking further explanations and a plan going forward.

Kevin Warren
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports.

Anybody who thought those the first eight days of fury, confusion and consternation following the postponement would be the most chaotic were, to put it lightly, wrong.

The past couple of weeks of nearly-impossible-to-follow storylines have featured a lawsuit from Nebraska’s players that turned up the Big Ten’s 11-3 vote to postpone the season, parent-led protests that took place at both the Big Ten’s headquarters and on several campuses including Ohio State, a call from President Trump to Warren reportedly facilitated by Clay Travis, renowned lawyer Tom Mars talking openly about possibly suing the conference for answers and politicians sending letters to ask the conference to reconsider. Among all of the disarray, a lack of continuity within the Big Ten – and, to go one step further, inside of various schools – has materialized.

Good luck to anybody in search of clear, concise answers about either what happened or what’s coming next. How many times can you say, ‘OK, this is the time the Big Ten will come out with a plan and be transparent about the process,’ and be proven incorrect before you throw up your hands?

Perhaps, the public will never know the tick-tock account of everything that has transpired behind the scenes over the last five weeks. The Big Ten surely won’t look to open up about what’s happened any more than the minimal information it has divulged thus far – though doing so would likely aid its case considering how little it has even attempted to control the message ever after hiring Carrie Cecil, the CEO of Anachel Communications.

The next step for the Big Ten shouldn’t take nearly as long to materialize, but it somehow has.

Reports of a potential impending re-vote about whether or not to undo the postponement and play fall beginning in October surfaced in the past week or so, though they haven’t been corroborated by national reporters. If that option – reportedly pushed by the conference’s coaches, including Day – is a possibility, even after Warren completely ruling it out in his open letter just a few weeks ago, a decision has to be made now in order to use the season’s runway. 

It’s clearly the option that most benefits the Buckeyes, who have arguably the country’s best college football team that desperately wants to play for a spot in the College Football Playoff. 

Yet if October football remains a pipedream, the Big Ten needs to say so, and it should do so soon. It owes the players some clarity about when this season will be held, whether beginning in October, November, January or sometime else. An inexplicable yet admitted complete lack of any discussion between the conference’s president and athletic directors about what a spring or winter season would look like before postponing to play in either the spring or winter surely didn’t help, but they’ve now had almost a month. It’s past time to make a decision.

Yet as Warren and the presidents take their time, outside of a glimmer of hope a month or two ago when a season appeared possible, Ohio State’s players and coaches are left to do what it’s done since March: Simply wait for a plan to be made.

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