Part 2: Chancellor Green on Decision by Big Ten to Postpone Fall Sports

Aug. 28, 2020, 6:45 a.m. ·

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green. (Photo courtesy of UNL)

Listen To This Story

Nebraska Cornhusker sports fans are still absorbing the news that there won’t be a fall sports season because of COVID-19. In the second part of the broader conversation, NET’s Jack Williams spoke with University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green about the Big Ten's decision and what led to the historic postponement of fall sports, including Husker football.

NET News: You were a part of the meeting earlier this month where it was decided to delay the season. I think parents and some players want to know more about what happened in that meeting. Was there an actual vote taken at that meeting?

Chancellor Ronnie Green: We had a really hard decision to make at the Big Ten Conference level for fall sports. I think everyone understands the immensity of that decision, the importance of that decision, but also understands the importance of the safety issues around that decision. So it was a tough decision to make. But that decision was actually made by the board of directors of the Big Ten Conference. I sit on that board as the Big Ten member, and it was a tough decision-making process, but there was a vote. Ultimately there was a vote of the board. It was an overwhelming consensus vote. It was not a unanimous vote. I've been kind of clear about that. I was a dissenting vote in that case along with a few others, but we felt at Nebraska, that we were in a different place than what many of our colleagues felt they were in institutionally across the conference and being able to deal with this and deal with it safely for our student athletes. We felt we were prepared to play. We felt we were prepared to be able to manage the process to play safely for our student athletes here in fall sports. We felt we should move forward and try to make that happen. But that was not the consensus of the Big Ten. They felt strongly the other way that that we needed to pull back. I guess we're all going to see here over the coming weeks as three of the five conferences still have plans to have a fall sports season. And that's to kick off here officially in the next few weeks. I know how gut wrenching this decision was for Nebraskans, for Husker nation, for our student athletes. First and foremost, it's tough. And it's tough to think about postponing something into the spring and still not knowing the unknowns associated with what may or may not come with that spring season. I hope we have a bonafide spring season that replaces what we have lost up to this point.

NET News: Was there specific new information presented to you and the other leaders of the Big Ten that drastically changed how you and others felt about the fall sports season? The decision, to some, seemed rather abrupt after the schedule had been released the previous week.

Chancellor Green: Yeah. So that week leading up to the schedule being released, that week prior to the decision, I think we released the schedule on Thursday for the plans for the season to move forward starting in September, and the release of the football schedules and the revised schedules and so forth. And then this decision came the following week, actually. So what changed, what really led to that decision was information coming from the medical community that indicated that the uncertainties were growing rather than reducing relative to risk and relative to risk to the student athletes themselves. The unknowns continue to grow and the unknowns continue to grow not only in terms of the impact of COVID-19, there's been a lot talked about Myocarditis, and long term cardiac effects of complicated infections with COVID, folks that are in intensive care, for example. I don't think we have the dots connected there yet, but there's troubling information out there about that in general. The other issues were around testing and tracing and the ability to have the capacity to do that at the level that many felt we were going to need to have, two to three tests per athlete per week and contact tracing associated with that. I think there was considerable concern about capacity and being able to do that and deliver that. So all of those things rolled together were what really changed the view of being able to move forward successfully and without fail. So a lot of things were considered, but principally those.

NET News: Are you concerned at all about the quality of play in the spring? You mentioned the spring season earlier and the fact that maybe some players will opt out and some players don't want to play two seasons in one calendar year. Does that concern you at all as you look forward?

Chancellor Green: I think we heard Coach Frost talk about that, during that week of the decision about concern about whether a spring replacement for fall moving to the spring and what could be put together and the complexities associated with eligibility, the complexities associated with those who are looking at pro athletics, holding teams together, all the things that you mentioned. What I've learned since is in the conversation with the athletic directors that has been ongoing now for the last two weeks, talking about the possibilities for the spring and the planning toward the spring and how that could unfold and look is there seems to be a growing level of enthusiasm among the AD’s and the coaches that this can work and it can work with a bonafide season for the spring in a way that that still would funnel into the following year seamlessly without impact. So that's what we're focused on. We hope we're pulling that together now in that planning and moving in that direction to be able to have our student athletes compete as soon as we can, hopefully after first year.