The Rivalry Edition

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Carrying homemade signs, a group of protestors came together for a photo as Michigan football players, parents, coaches and fans gathered outside of Michigan Stadium Sunday afternoon to protest the cancellation of the fall football season. 

From left to right, their signs read “Show me the data,” “You had the choice; we had no voice,” “Let them play,” “Go Blue,” “Transparency = Legitimacy,” and “We support our players and coaches; Go Blue.”

The two “Go Blue” signs simply show support for the cause, but more of the group’s signs displayed calls for transparency than calls for a fall season. Such a disparity illustrates that the backlash following the Big Ten’s decision to cancel the fall football season has focused at least as much on how the decision was handled as it has on the decision itself. 

And while the Big Ten certainly should have been more forthcoming with information and more receptive to the views of all concerned parties given the sheer magnitude of the decision they made, the time has passed during which calls for increased transparency can be productive. 

The protestors may have been holding signs saying “Show us the data” and “Transparency = Legitimacy” last Sunday, but it is doubtful that any new data release would change the minds of the people holding those signs.

Penn State clarified some of the myocarditis data on Sept. 3 after an estimate that 30 percent of Big Ten athletes who tested positive had come down with the heart condition went viral without important context. That didn’t satisfy Chris Hutchinson, father of junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and one of the organizers of Sunday’s protest.

“Even 15% sounds off. Until we can actually peer review the original study it’s twitter-speculation,” Hutchinson said via Twitter. “BTW the ACC experts believe it’s in the less than 5% range.”

Today’s culture of selective information and the lack of concrete answers regarding COVID-19 make it so that each side of this debate can cite news stories, studies and interview answers that support their argument. And as such, there is really no reason for those pushing for a fall season to change their minds with new evidence. 

The evidence would contrast their prior understanding and their desires, so human nature alone dictates a low chance it would have any impact on their views, not to even mention the effects of the tension built up between the two sides over the past month.

The conference announced its decision to cancel the season almost a month ago. The decision-makers cannot go back in time to be more inclusive. They also can’t go back in time to be more immediately transparent about the factors and data that drove their decision.

This means that the parents and coaches’ focus needs to be on the future. 

Rather than criticizing the Big Ten for its past lack of transparency and inclusiveness, those who seek change need to center their efforts on making sure their voices are heard and the conference is forthcoming with information moving forward.

There is a decision forthcoming regarding the establishment of a new football schedule, and from the perspective of many, that decision needs to be made as soon as possible. 

Ohio State coach Ryan Day called for “returning to play in mid-October” in a statement he released earlier today, but he devoted much fewer words to this goal than he did to criticizing the Big Ten’s previous communications. 

Day’s frustration is understandable, but his emphasis needs to be flipped. If he wants his team to have the chance to win a national title this fall, he and those supporting his cause need to put all of their energy into pushing for an early enough season start for that to happen. 

The university presidents have made it clear that the teams will not be playing this fall, so the best option Day and those protesting outside Michigan Stadium have for reversing course is injecting a new opinion. 

That means working with the Big Ten and with the university presidents.

Cohen can be reached jaccohen@umich.edu or on Twitter @JaCohen9

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