Area Big Ten football parents weigh in on fall sports decision

In response to criticism of the decision eight days earlier not to hold sports this fall, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren published a letter to the Big Ten community Wednesday night.

It cited concerns about the spread of COVID-19 nationally, the impact of the return of students to college campuses, the ability to contract trace, a dearth of widespread rapid testing and unknowns surrounding the long-term health impacts of the virus, including a heart ailment only recently connected to it.

“At the core of our decision was the knowledge that there was too much medical uncertainty and too many unknown health risks regarding SARS-CoV-2 infection and its impact on our student-athletes,” Warren concluded, using the scientific name of the novel coronavirus.

That explanation was still not enough for Brad Myers, whose son Josh is the starting center for the Ohio State football team and a Miamisburg High School grad.

“I think we’re a lot like everyone else,” Myers said. “We’re frustrated, upset and just sad for all the kids.

“We feel like we just haven’t — and you’ve heard 10 million people say this — but we don’t have answers. If they’re going based on safety, I can tell you with 100% certainty that they just made the kids way less safe by making the decision that they made versus what they were doing.”

He praised Ohio State Director of Athletics Gene Smith and football coach Ryan Day for establishing protocols for players since they returned to campus for voluntary workouts in June and said they have done a great job keeping parents in the loop.

“If you walk into the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and you’re breathing, there’s a protocol for how you breathe,” Myers said. “I’m not joking. It’s the most thorough, comprehensive (safety) plan I’ve ever seen, and so to play that card, clearly it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that that’s just absolutely not true.”

While Josh Myers was looking forward to a second year as a starter and potentially setting himself up to enter the NFL Draft, Northmont alumnus Gabe Newburg was hoping to break into the playing rotation on the Michigan defensive line this fall after redshirting last year as a freshman.

“He’s been working his butt off all postseason and into the spring, and he’s got himself to the point where they wanted him to play, and now he’s looking at like two years of really not playing football,” his father, Scott Newburg, said. “Just preparing to play football kind of gets old after a while. The lifting, the meetings and the practices and going to school and all that kind of stuff. The No. 1 reason he went up there is to get an education, but No. 2 to play football but he just hasn’t been able to.”

He also praised the job Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has done to maintain a safe and healthy environment in Ann Arbor.

“I just don’t feel that the decision was made for the reason of the kids getting sick during the season because I really think the precautions that Michigan, and I can’t speaking for anybody else but I’m sure they all did the same thing, did was making the kid safe, I really do,” Newburg said. “So it is disappointing that way.”

Newburg and Myers both said they would not have an issue if their sons were asked to sign a liability waiver in order to clear the way for games to take place this fall.

“I’m not sure if the reason they’re not doing this is because they’re afraid of lawsuits down the road and people getting sick,” Newburg said. “I thought a waiver would be fantastic to take care of that problem. And these kids are young kids in great shape. I don’t know what other group but these 18-to-21-year-olds who could get it and not severely.”

Not all local Big Ten parents are up in arms over the decision, though.

Monet Moore, whose son Jaiden Cameron is a Northmont grad and a true freshman defensive lineman at Northwestern, said she supported both the plans to play when they were in place and the decision not to when it came down.

“Football is the most profitable of all the collegiate sports,” Moore pointed out. “Therefore the Big Ten postponing the season indicates the value that they have for the health of the players over their financial gain as an institution.

“So as a parent and a healthcare provider — I’m a registered nurse — I support the Big Ten decision to be proactive instead of reactive because it is predicted that the virus will worsen in the fall. So ultimately I just think that we have to continue to have a positive outlook because a lot of this is out of our control when it comes to the virus.”

Like Newburg and Myers, she felt comfortable with the way Northwestern handled offseason workouts and the beginning of practice.

“They have been really good at educating their players, and their players have been very good at controlling their activities and their exposure so not get the virus,” she said.

Moore also said she would support her son signing a waiver if he chose to, though she was not necessarily a fan herself.

“That would probably be a little bit of a conflict for me because there’s already so much responsibility in playing football in itself,” she said. “You’re so prone to injury, and so many other things can happen to you. So it’s almost as if it’s like, ‘Well, you’re gonna risk your health, so I just need you to sign is to make sure that you’re okay with it.’”

That signing a waiver was never an option irked the elder Myers.

“Are they afraid that it’s going to be a bad look for them?” he said. “I mean I would much rather have them take a little bit of a bad look and give all the student-athletes an opportunity to compete. Just sign a waiver, and if you opt out, that’s fine. Everybody’s gonna respect that. We don’t know their situation or their family history.

“You know, we always teach our to when you get knocked on your back, get up and attack in another direction and swing as hard as you can. I felt like the Big Ten never even entered the fight.”

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