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Parents-led demonstration held at OSU over cancellation of fall season

Joey Kaufman
jkaufman@dispatch.com
Ohio State football fans listen during a rally organized by parents of Buckeyes players outside the rotunda of Ohio Stadium.

About 200 Ohio State fans gathered outside the north rotunda of Ohio Stadium on Saturday for a protest organized by the parents of Buckeyes football players.

Decked in scarlet and gray, they waved homemade signs that called on the Big Ten to reverse its much-criticized decision to cancel the fall sports season amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It was the second parent-led demonstration in as many weeks; about two dozen protestors met on Aug. 21 in front of the conference’s headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois.

In the span of a half-hour, seven parents addressed the crowd, which included offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and recruiting director Mark Pantoni, and led chants of “O-H-I-O” that was reminiscent of a game-day pep rally.

Much of the ire remained directed at Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and other league officials who have not disclosed the vote tally of presidents and chancellors who called off the season. Many signs from fans mentioned a desire for transparency, as well as targeting the head of the conference.

“Our beef is not at all with Ohio State University,” said Kyle Borland, the father of linebacker Tuf Borland. “We want to make that very clear. Our beef is with the Big Ten. Our beef is with university presidents.”

Before organizing the demonstrations, the football parents’ association had requested a Zoom call with Warren. They have not received a response from the commissioner’s office beyond an open letter released on Aug. 19 in which Warren said the fall season's cancellation would not be revisited, citing a vote that was said to be overwhelmingly in favor of the decision.

“That was the last thing we’ve heard from the Big Ten,” said Amanda Babb, the association’s president, whose son Kamryn Babb is a Buckeyes receiver

Parents have said they are interested in learning more about the medical information the conference used to make its decision, especially as three other major conferences move ahead with plans to play next month.

Other concerns lie with the absence of a clear road map for the months ahead.

When the Big Ten announced on Aug. 11 that it had canceled the fall season, it said it would evaluate the potential for a season in the spring semester. But no further details were given.

“They did not come with a solution,” said Monica Johnson, the mother of offensive tackle Paris Johnson. “They presented a problem and walked away. So what is the solution? What is the next step?”

In recent weeks, potential plans for a rescheduled season have emerged. The latest development came Friday when Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith confirmed an idea that included a season starting around Thanksgiving weekend.

If there has been an early victory from the parents’ protests and vocal frustration with the Big Ten, it might be in spurring preliminary discussions.

“I like to think that we’ve been in some sort of way successful in getting them to start talking about the plan moving forward,” Babb said. “When they canceled, there wasn’t a plan at all. We didn’t know if it was April. We didn’t know if it was March. Or January.

“So I’m hoping that by keeping some of the pressure up on the Big Ten that it’s encouraging them to come up with a solution, because we’re not going to stop. We’re going to keep fighting until we get answers.”

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman

Graham Fleck, 11, of Grove City holds up a sign during the rally.