On Monday morning, just six days after the Big Ten announced its decision to postpone football season to spring amid the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic, a group of Michigan parents released a letter advocating for the season to be reinstated.
The letter was posted by the Twitter account Wolverine Football Parents, addressed to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and Michigan president Mark Schlissel, who is a professor of immunology. Warren made the decision to postpone the season last week, after a meeting in which 12 of 14 conference presidents, including Schlissel, voted for the postponement.
“We feel that the decision to cancel the 2020 season was premature,” the letter said. “We also believe that the Big Ten and University Presidents failed to exercise due diligence by not acquiring the input of the very student athletes their decisions would impact.”
As such, the parents’ letter, signed by more than 75 families, per the Detroit News, included a list of five central demands. These include a meeting with Warren, a meeting with Schlissel, a description of the facts used to cancel the season, a description of Big Ten protocols and a reversal of the cancelation. This follows similar efforts among parents at Ohio State and Iowa.
In response to the decision last week, players around the country have created the Twitter movement #WeWantToPlay, expressing their support for a season. Coaches, including Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, have circulated #WeWantToCoach.
Harbaugh expressed his disappointment in the decision last week, referencing the safety protocols Michigan had in place. The parents letter echoed his sentiment.
“Coach Harbaugh and his staff have maintained consistent communication with us through the entire process,” the letter said. “We are well-versed in the protocols that have been established by the University of Michigan to reduce risk and maintain a safe environment. As such, we have complete trust in the coaching and medical staff of the University of Michigan.”
But while Michigan had a number of protocols in place, there were still positive COVID-19 cases popping up around the conference, including at Michigan, before the cancelation. According to The Athletic, ten Big Ten players have developed the long-term heart condition myocarditis that can result from COVID-19.
The parents, though, believe that their sons should have the opportunity to weigh that risk for themselves.
“We have complete trust in our sons and their ability to determine what is best for them,” the letter said. “Therefore, we overwhelmingly support their decisions to play or opt out this fall. As football players, they understand risk. As young men, they understand the consequences of their decisions.”