Months of protocol and testing were not enough to save the Big Ten football season this fall from the uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said unanswered questions had as much as anything to do with why conference presidents and chancellors opted to postpone fall sports programs throughout the league.
"A lot of the questions we needed to make sure we had answered now that we were getting closer to the next phase of practice and getting closer to actual competition, there were just too many uncertainties to feel comfortable from a medical standpoint to move forward," Warren said.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said he believed the detailed medical protocol the Big Ten had in place could have worked if given a chance during a fall football season.
Yet, he conceded that a lack of data proved problematic.
"We put 22 bodies on a field in close quarters and contact is a part of our game," Ferentz said. "It’s not like racing cars or playing golf. Football is a different sport."
Ferentz said his players did an admirable job of embracing what they were asked to do, from being tested for the coronavirus regularly to fielding survey questions about symptoms on a daily basis.
Warren appreciated that as well, but said, "I feel very comfortable based on the information regarding our 14 institutions in 11 states that we made the correct decision at this point in time."
Ferentz believed the plan unveiled by the Big Ten last week was detailed enough that it had a chance to make a season possible.
"I feel like our practices have been pretty safe. The big question that remained was what would have when we had contact on a routine basis, how would the virus react," Ferentz said. "The NFL will find that out in a little bit — they have a little better control over their athletes. On a campus setting, it’s different."
Many parents of Iowa players expressed support for the medical protocols their sons were going through for the chance to compete this fall.
Most took part in a video conference with Ferentz and with Iowa medical personnel last week.
They asked important questions and received answers to more than 90 of them during a thorough opportunity.
Brian and Julie Waggoner, the parents of Iowa defensive linemen John Waggoner, released a statement Monday evening saying they believed adequate safeguards and procedures were in place.
"There is a risk of getting COVID-19 with everything we do in our daily lives. We believe our players will be more at risk without football," the Waggoners wrote.
That concerns Ferentz as well, saying the structure and routine for players preparing for competition creates a tighter circle than what players might find themselves in without the team support system.
"It’s not a bubble, but it’s like a bubble," he said.
With no season to prepare for, Iowa players will have some free time now until the week of Aug. 24.
Teams are expected to be allowed to train 20 hours per week this fall, but talking within three hours of the Big Ten announcing its decision, Ferentz said Iowa’s plans had not yet been finalized.
Ferentz said he does not expect Iowa to be among programs actively pursuing other fall-season opportunities.
"The conference has made its decision and I would suspect we will respect that," he said.
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