Big Ten's Warren: COVID Decision Brought Death Threats

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Big Ten Conference commissioner Kevin Warren said Tuesday he received death threats in the wake of the conference’s initial decision to forgo the 2020 football season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Warren made the revelation in an interview with Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde and Richard Johnson at the Big Ten's media day in Indianapolis. The commissioner told SI he avoided driving because the Big Ten offices in suburban Chicago didn’t have a secure parking lot at the time, and he reasoned it wouldn’t be difficult for someone with ill intentions to tamper with his car.

“I didn’t drive for two years, I had so many death threats,” Warren told Forde and Johnson. “My wife said, ‘Kevin, your car only has 400 miles on it.’ Yeah, because I didn’t drive it for two years.”

The Big Ten alerted law enforcement agencies to the threats, which included a fan who posted on social media that he was putting out a $5,000 bounty on Warren, according to SI, which reported that another threat turned over to authorities involved a fan saying if he had three bullets with the opportunity to shoot Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler and Warren, he would use all three bullets on Warren.

Warren told SI his family and executive assistant also were threatened.

The Big Ten ultimately reversed course and did play a conference-only football schedule beginning in late October 2020. Conference champion Ohio State earned a College Football Playoff berth and reached the national championship game, losing to Alabama.

Warren officially began his tenure as Big Ten Conference commissioner on Jan. 2, 2020. On Aug. 11 of that year, the Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents and Chancellors overwhelmingly voted to postpone the Big Ten fall sports season due to growing medical concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Big Ten website, which states, "To ensure a cohesive, collaborative and transparent return to competition, Commissioner Warren and the COP/C established the Return to Competition Task Force (Task Force) to research and prepare for the safe resumption of sports. On September 16, 2020, the COP/C and the conference announced they had adopted stringent medical protocols to resume football October 23-24, 2020. The decision was based on the new medical information presented by the Task Force and positioned the conference as one of the most medically advanced in the country."

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