A petition created Sunday morning by Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields requesting that the Big Ten reinstate football had received more than 130,000 signatures in the first five hours after it was posted.
Fields, who would have been a Heisman Trophy front-runner in 2020 after being a finalist last year, addressed his petition to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, Big Ten presidents and conference athletic directors.
"We, the football players of the Big Ten, together with the fans and supporters of college football, request that the Big Ten Conference immediately reinstate the 2020 football season," Fields wrote on the MoveOn.org platform. "Allow Big Ten players/teams to make their own choice as to whether they wish to play or opt out this fall season. Allow Big Ten players/teams who choose to opt out of playing a fall season to do so without penality (sic) or repercussion."
The Big Ten announced on Tuesday that it would not play fall sports in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference said it would pursue shifting those sports to 2021 but provided no details.
"We want to play," Fields wrote. "We believe that safety protocols have been established and can be maintained to mitigate concerns of exposure to Covid 19. We believe that we should have the right to make decisions about what is best for our health and our future. Don’t let our hard work and sacrifice be in vain. #LetUsPlay."
Fields linked to the petition on Twitter, writing, "This cause is close to my heart – please sign."
Numerous OSU teammates and fellow Big Ten players retweeted Fields. His letter comes a day after Ohio State football parents wrote a letter asking the Big Ten to reconsider the conference’s decision as well as explain the decision-making behind it.
Also Sunday, the NCAA’s medical director said the path to playing college sports during the coronavirus pandemic is extremely narrow and that "there is no way we can go forward" if testing does not improve.
Dr. Brian Hainline told CNN that "everything would have to line up perfectly" for sports to be played this fall.
In major-college football, four conferences, including the Big Ten and Pac-12, have postponed fall sports. Six leagues, including the Atlantic Coast, Big 12 and Southeastern conferences, are moving forward with plans to play this fall.
Hainline told CNN that how colleges handle the reopening of campuses will be crucial in determining when sports can be played. He said testing of athletes will need to increase when competition begins.
"If testing stays at it is, there’s no way we can go forward with sports," Hainline said, adding that "we’re not in a place today where we could safely play sports."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.