University of Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman published an open letter on the school’s website, suggesting the outcome of the Big Ten men's basketball regular season was anything but “an equitable outcome.”
In the letter, Whitman argued that due to the extraordinarily unusual season, Michigan and Illinois should have been named co-champions.
"We should not have had to advocate for ourselves — this is the right outcome for the Big Ten and one that it should have proactively sought," Whitman wrote. "But nonetheless, we were left to fight our own battle, and despite our advocacy, I learned late yesterday that our efforts were unsuccessful. Michigan will remain outright champions."
Whitman said that Illinois wasn’t looking to take anything away from Michigan but that because of impacts of COVID-19 and the unprecedented season that followed, Illinois deserved part of the title.
The conference’s athletic directors and Council of Presidents and Chancellors decided prior to the season that the champion would be determined by overall winning percentage, figuring at that point that some teams would play less than the allotted 20 conference games.
"The winning percentage metric was meant to "level the playing field" for those teams that might suffer more significant disruption than others," Whitman wrote.
Michigan secured the highest winning percentage despite not playing the allotted 20 games. Illinois, on the other hand, played all 20 games and secured 16 conference wins, the most in the Big Ten.
"In basketball, I believe teams deserve the title 'conference champion' when they have proven themselves to be superior to their peers through their on-court performance for the duration of the season," Whitman wrote. "In normal years, teams play the same number of games, making this an apples-to-apples, objective evaluation. Unfortunately for all of us, this is not that year. This year, we have many elite teams, including two that finished their seasons with 16-4 and 14-3 records, respectively.
"The 15% difference in the number of games played presents an apples-to-oranges comparison that is not easily resolved."