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5 questions to ask yourself if you’re a Big Ten parent planning to protest

Look, navigating Rosement sucks, so we’re just trying to help you folks out

Northwestern v Iowa
Iowa fans yell at officials during the fourth quarter of a game vs. Northwestern on Oct. 1, 2016.
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Back in May, when times wer–– look I don’t have a clever joke to describe the month of May. May sucked, just like March and April did before it, and every month has since.

But anyway, back in May, the cultural icons here at CQ, — you know, us folks who have our fingers on the pulse of what kinds of memes the Internet likes (mostly jokes at the expense of Nebraska and Rutger – leave off the “s” to really make them mad) — tweeted the following:

That tweet was a 450-foot moonshot off of a tee-ball tee – a pretty big payoff following an easy setup – but because we’re apparently living in a simulation, that meme is now coming to life on Friday.

It’s coming to life because the Big Ten has woefully lacked transparency regarding its decision to postpone fall sports. And if the 30-plus Rutger football players who tested positive for COVID-19 played even the smallest role in the Big Ten’s fall season getting postponed, then the crudely edited headline on the meme you see above could kinda, sorta, maybe appear on your real-life TV Friday morning.

That’s because Randy Wade, the father of Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade, who’s a potential first-round NFL Draft pick next spring, is spearheading a movement of Big Ten parents to “make some people uncomfortable” at the Big Ten office on Friday, according to Buckeye Scoop. Wade is traveling from Florida to Illinois to demand answers, and he’s asking Big Ten parents and fans to come with him.

Now, not all of Wade’s points hold water, like the one that Kevin Warren’s status as the father of an SEC football player is a conflict of interest for being the Big Ten Commissioner.

If we play along for a second, is Kevin Warren supposed to be a secretive SEC operative in this scenario who’s trying to destroy the Big Ten from within because his son is a fourth-year junior who played in one game last season for a school that went 6-7 and fired its coach?

There are lots of really important questions that Kevin Warren deserves to be asked and and questions that Big Ten athletes, coaches, parents and fans deserve honest answers to, but the alleged conflict of interest due to his son’s school isn’t one of them.

Whatever the rallying cry is on Friday, this Big Ten parent movement will apparently include parents from more than one school.

Regardless of what happens Friday, it will almost certainly make for a compelling few hours of tweets and, if the parents get at least one of their wishes, hopefully there will be some more clarity as to why the Big Ten reached its conclusion that fall sports must be postponed.

If you’re a Big Ten parent who’s furiously looking up your lunch options in Rosement near O’Hare International Airport before your flight home, you’ll probably benefit from asking, and answering, a few questions first.

1. What’s your role as the parent of an 18- to 23-year-old adult?

This question is so much bigger than just how it relates to the parents of Big Ten football players being upset with the conference’s decision to postpone fall sports.

Legally, they’re independent adults the day they turn 18. They could shut you out from viewing their medical records. They could join the military. As a parent, you could decide to no longer support them financially or with a home.

If a college student failed an exam, how would a professor react to the student’s parents reaching out with a concern about the course?

For someone who joins the workforce straight out of high school and they’re reprimanded at work, how would the boss handle a visit or a phone call from the employee’s parents?

These situations aren’t apples to apples when compared to the current circumstances surrounding the Big Ten, but it’s still an interesting underlying question nonetheless.

I recently read some complaints from softball players at the University of Nevada that their parents had to pay to get into their home games and there wasn’t even a bathroom for the team’s fans. Players and parents would share a couple of port-a-potties.

I read about athletes at another school who, after road games, weren’t allowed to visit with their family who traveled to watch them play, because the coaching staff had strict policies about travel schedules or The Team Comes First or some other policy that comes from one’s brain starting to corrode a little bit.

These schools – speaking generally, not specifically in regard to the Big Ten or the sport of football – don’t necessarily care about you, the dedicated and concerned parent. Your above-average DNA produced a DI athlete and if that athlete isn’t quite good enough for a full-ride athletic scholarship, then they’re also thankful for your well-paying job or a credit score that allows for a big enough loan that allows you to pay the rest of your kid’s tuition.

But in these school-and-athlete relationships, everyone involved is an adult, so in some cases, the parents of athletes might be viewed as nothing more than superfans with some level of financial investment in the athlete’s success.

A seesaw with three people is just kind of awkward.

2. What exactly are you protesting?

Are you protesting the Big Ten’s decision to postpone fall sports or are you protesting the lack of transparency and unequivocally clear communication about what really happened on a series of Zoom calls that led to the decision to postpone fall sports?

It’s probably not a stretch to assume that parents are upset about both issues, which are connected. If their children’s seasons were postponed, they want to know why.

And that’s absolutely fair. It’s what’s right.

According to The Athletic, Penn State AD Sandy Barbour said Monday that she isn’t sure if an official vote among the Big Ten presidents and chancellors ever occurred, which is, uh, potentially damning. (It might also be performative, like many things in the last two weeks have been, for the sake of not damaging future recruiting or relationships with deep-pocketed donors.) The conference office and the university presidents have largely managed to skirt any serious on-the-record questions and answers since the decision came down, and it shouldn’t stay that way.

In a rare bit of good PR for the Pac-12, the conference was commended for how it handled its own postponing of the fall sports season. That, of course, came with the benefit of being the second to do so, after the Big Ten.

My mom loves to tell a story from time to time about when I was growing up, maybe in third or fourth grade. There was a huge, winding driveway off the cul-de-sac at the end of my street, where an older couple lived. I’d only go up there once a year to sell them popcorn when I was a Boy Scout, but one day my friend (who I’m pretty sure is now a loyal CQ reader) and I took our bikes up to the top.

We wanted to see what it was like to ride down.

There was a huge pile of gravel at the bottom of the driveway, when the surface finally leveled out where the driveway met the street. I rode down first, flying down the driveway, directly through the gravel, narrowly missing a mailbox and a huge boulder that were at the end of another neighbor’s driveway, and I wiped out and ended up with a huge gash in my forearm as I lay bleeding on the asphalt.

Hitting either the mailbox or the boulder probably would’ve led to an instant trip to the ER, if not something worse.

My friend rode his bike down after I did and as my memory serves, he made it down just fine, after knowing what obstacles to avoid.

The Pac-12 rollerblades down the steep driveway backwards, whistling as it steers past the pile of gravel, the mailbox, the boulder and the bloody 10-year-old who’s staring up at the sky.

Sometimes there are benefits to going second.

There’s probably a reason you haven’t heard of a growing group Pac-12 parents mounting a protest in front of Larry Scott’s front door. Maybe some of that is cultural, sure, but there’s also a not-insignificant part of it that can be credited to the Pac-12’s messaging and transparency in releasing documents from its medical advisory group. The Pac-12 also held a conference call with Scott, Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson, Oregon President Michael Schill and Oregon State Director of Sports Medicine Dr. Doug Aukerman.

It was a unified front of people in positions of power from across the conference.

3. How are you getting to the Big Ten’s offices?

I don’t say this with even a hint of humor or laughter, but it would be ironic if the upset parents and fans who travel to the Big Ten headquarters to protest a football season that was postponed due to concerns about COVID-19, and some percentage of the those involved catch COVID-19 as a result of their travels or gathering too close together once they’re there.

I really hope it doesn’t happen.

When I talked last month to Dr. Ron Waldman, a professor of global health and an infectious diseases expert at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, I asked him what method of transportation he thought was safest for college basketball programs this winter.

“So if I was sure there was no virus in my travel group, then I don’t think it matters very much,” he said. “I would say definitely not commercial air so I think those other – car caravan, bus, plane – they’re probably equivalent.”

Randy Wade tweeted Monday a picture of his flight confirmation for a commercial flight from Orlando to Chicago on Thursday night.

If nothing comes of any of the protests or discussions – however those involved want to categorize what’s going to happen Friday – I just hope everyone involved stays healthy.

If they don’t, it’ll underscore why the Big Ten made the decision in the first place, regardless of the perceived flaws in the process that led to the decision.

4. Are the Big Ten offices even open? If they are, will they even let you in?

Serious question. I know essential businesses remain open but will a conference, which will be more than a week removed from postponing all sports through October, if not longer, have its doors open on a Friday?

If the conference’s offices are open, surely there are health and safety precautions in place.

Maybe that means no visitors. Maybe that means visitors are allowed in one at a time.

Maybe that means no more than three people can be in the lobby.

Whatever the limitations are, they’re probably not conducive to a potential groundswell of parents and fans flooding through the front door.

Plus, parents declaring their intentions on social media ahead of time spoils any surprise.

“You asked if Kevin Warren is here? No, I don’t think so. Let me check his calendar real quick. Ahhh, it looks like he has, uh, um, a dentist appointment out in Elgin today, sorry. Sounds like he has a nasty toothache and might be laid up for a couple days.”

(Crumples up and throws away post-it note that says “Kevin’s at the DENTIST today”)

Maybe the Big Ten’s front door just happens to be locked on Friday. Maybe the intercom just happens to be broken. Maybe a new “no visitors” policy just happened to be implemented.

5. What’s your plan once you’re there?

Shaun Wade’s father tweeted Thursday that he was looking for someone who knows Rosemont, Illinois, where the Big Ten offices are, just in case the parents can’t get on the Big Ten’s property.

Given the potential lawsuits that could result from a college athlete potentially dying from COVID-19, I don’t think there’s any way the Big Ten will reverse its course in regards to a fall sports season. Plus, it would be a PR nightmare for new commissioner Kevin Warren.

At this point, he hasn’t made the *wrong* decision. The other six FBS conferences that are planning on playing football will have to finish a fall season without incident before that indictment could be made.

That’s right, finish the season. Not start.

If, for whatever reason, the protesting parents can’t get on the property at the Big Ten’s HQ, I’m frankly not sure what they will accomplish. And that’s because I don’t know how much they’d accomplish even if they were on the property.

And I’m not sure what protesting near the, uh, ... (checks map) ... Chicago Harley-Davidson or Fogo De Chao next door would do to bring back Iowa-Nebraska in Week 4.

I really do respect the commitment of Randy Wade and any other Big Ten parents and fans who will travel to Rosemont on Friday. They’re trying to make their kids’ dreams possible, whether they’re a likely first-rounder in next spring’s NFL Draft or someone who’s buried on his team’s depth chart, but still gets to suit up for a Big Ten program and run out of the tunnel a dozen or so times every fall.

They probably smell some blood in the water, thanks to the public posturing and performative statements made by ADs and coaches across the conference, combined with not enough clear answers from a brand-new conference commissioner or from the university presidents who he’s paid to represent and take the heat for, when needed.

There’s probably some level of frantic, anxious energy too, like those days when you’ve had two cups of coffee, forgot to eat breakfast in the midst of a busy work day and you look up and it’s somehow 1:30 p.m. These parents and fans just need to do something.

They’re not wrong for trying and they’re certainly right for asking for more answers.

But unfortunately for them, the only answer they might get on Friday is that, yes, Fogo De Chao does have reservations available for a party of six at 1 p.m.