Big Ten presidents voted 11-3 to cancel fall sports

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

The much-anticipated vote tally that led to the postponement of the Big Ten’s football season was made public on Monday.

Presidents and chancellors voted 11-3 in favor of canceling the fall sports season because of the coronavirus pandemic, the conference confirmed.

Ohio State was joined by Iowa and Nebraska in voting against the cancellation, according to several news reports.

The Dispatch learned at the time of the vote on Aug. 11 that incoming OSU president Kristina M. Johnson did not vote to cancel.

In a statement afterward, OSU athletic director Gene Smith said, “President-elect Johnson and I were totally aligned in our efforts to delay the start of the season rather than postpone. I am so grateful to her for all her efforts in support of our student-athletes and a traditional fall season.”

But details of the ultimate vote had remained scarce in the three weeks since it took place, drawing a backlash from fans and parents of players who asked for greater transparency from the conference. In an open letter on Aug. 19, commissioner Kevin Warren had only said that the vote was “overwhelmingly” in favor of scrapping games for this fall.

The conference is looking at rescheduling football, along with other fall sports, for the spring semester.

The vote tally was made known as part of the Big Ten’s response to a lawsuit filed last week by eight Nebraska football players who sought to overturn the decision, claiming a breach of contract by the conference for not following its governing documents.

But the Big Ten said it followed its bylaws, which required a 60% vote of support from the university presidents and chancellors, meeting the threshold by an 11-3 vote that drew 78.6% support.

“The facts are clear that there was indeed a vote that far exceeded the 60% threshold,” read a statement from the conference, “and the decision by the COP/C (Council of Presidents and Chancellors) was based on the input of several medical and infectious disease experts in the best interest of the health and wellness of student-athletes and the surrounding communities among the 14 member institutions.”

The conference had formed an infectious disease task force in April with representatives from each of the 14 member schools.

Two members of the advisory group told The Dispatch earlier this month that they supported the decision to push back fall sports.