Big Ten commissioner felt Ohio State parents protest letter was 'manufactured,' texts show

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren speaks following the cancellation of the men's basketball tournament due to concerns over the Coronavirus (COVID-19) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 12, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images/TNS)

In the days after the Big Ten initially canceled its fall football season in August over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, the parents group representing Ohio State players sent a letter to league commissioner Kevin Warren, urging for the decision to be reconsidered.

As it was released, Warren alleged that the letter had been “manufactured,” a characterization that irked school administrators, according to a series of text messages released on Wednesday as part of a public records dump.

In a text to athletic director Gene Smith on Aug. 15, then-president-elect Kristina M. Johnson relayed the claim.

“Kevin is alleging that the letter is being manufactured,” she wrote. “The upcoming letter from OSU parents – claims it is being manufactured – I am not happy pretty serious charge IMHO.”

Neither was Smith.

“Wow, how would he know…,” he replied, “our parents have a formal organization with a president, Vice President etc… they are an organized group… I am sure ours it is genuine.”

They did not raise further issues in their texts. Johnson and Smith both wrote they hoped to keep "an eye on the prize."

The parents of the Buckeyes’ players lobbied for weeks into September for the league to reverse course.

On Aug. 21, Randy Wade, the father of cornerback Shaun Wade, organized a demonstration outside the Big Ten’s office in suburban Chicago to protest the decision.

Another rally was held the following week at Ohio Stadium that drew about 200 hundred fans.

Most of them requested a Zoom meeting with Warren and said at the time that they were seeking greater transparency into the cancellation of the fall season.

Warren never directly responded to the group’s letter. On Aug. 19, the commissioner’s office released an open letter to say that the decision would not be revisited and that university presidents and chancellors had been overwhelmingly in favor of the decision.

It was later revealed to be an 11-3 vote, and Ohio State was one of the three schools, joined by Iowa and Nebraska, that was not in favor of the league’s initial move to call off a fall season.

The season ultimately restarted in October, and the Buckeyes played in eight games, including reaching the College Football Playoff final.

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman