Big Ten Conference presidents voted by a margin of 11-3 to postpone the fall football season, according to legal documents filed in response to a lawsuit led by University of Nebraska football players.
The brief filed by the conference doesn’t list how each of the league’s 14 schools voted — but ESPN reports that the three holdouts were Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State. While some university presidents — including Minnesota’s Joan Gabel and Michigan State’s Samuel L. Stanley — did not describe the decision as a traditional vote, Monday’s court filings includes a sworn affidavit from Northwestern president and chair of the league’s council of presidents and chancellors Morton Schapiro who confirmed the vote.
The legal filing comes as a response to a lawsuit filed last week by Nebraska football players Garrett Snodgrass, Garrett Nelson, Ethan Piper, Noa Pola-Gates, Alante Brown, Jackson Hannah and Brant and Brig Banks, who stated in their suit that the Big Ten’s postponement decision harms their football prospects and future ability to market themselves. The suit seeks to invalidate the conference’s decision to postpone, and to award damages to the players.
Among the claims the players made in their lawsuit was that the Big Ten made the decision to postpone based on a single study "that involved COVID-impacted patients who bear little resemblance to the Student Athlete plaintiffs, who are much older than the Student Athlete Plaintiffs, and who are not in similar physical condition as the Student Athlete Plaintiffs."
The Big Ten, for its part, said the decision to postpone was instead based on “ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the health and safety of the thousands of staff, referees and student-athletes who participate in intercollegiate athletics and the surrounding communities.”
The legal brief goes on to describe the decision as being informed by conversations the council of presidents and chancellors had with members of the league’s infectious disease task force and sports medicine committee.
According to league bylaws, a 60 percent threshold by the council of presidents and chancellors to approve any big decision — which the margin indicates was indeed the case.
“The facts are clear that there was indeed a vote that far exceeded the 60% threshold, and the decision by the COP/C was based on the input of several medical and infectious disease experts in the best interest of the health and wellness of student-athletes and the surrounding communities among the 14 member institutions. The Big Ten asks that the motion be denied,” the Conference said in a statement.
“The Big Ten Conference continues to share the disappointment that student-athletes and families are feeling. The Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force will continue to be transparent as it actively considers options to get back to competition when it is safe to play.”