We knew all along that the Big Ten's vote to cancel fall sports was not a unanimous one, and commissioner Kevin Warren confirmed it by omission when he declined to divulge the vote total. "Overwhelming" was the word he used in last week's clean-up letter.
Now, though, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Journalist Andy Wittry obtained a letter from University of Nebraska system president Ted Carter to Warren sent a day before the Big Ten canceled its fall season, which went down two weeks ago yesterday.
In it, Carter states clearly that Nebraska would like to move forward with the fall season. Hours later, Huskers head coach Scott Frost would bluff that Nebraska would play its own season with or without the Big Ten, which followed a letter from Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse released a letter urging the conference to pause, not cancel. Here is the email (emphasis added):
Know you are dealing with a lot as [University of Nebraska Chancellor] Ronnie Green has kept me up to speed hourly. As many student athletes are now making statements about their desire to play, I wanted you to hear from me personally that I support a Fall sports season with all the safety protocols that had been planned. I understand that there are other risks and some potential medical issues being discussed with nothing conclusive. Risk and risk mitigation are going to be a balance that all of us weigh. I personally believe we have to move forward and try, otherwise we are likely to have such a negative impact on sports and college campuses as well as a way of life impacting millions. Many programs involving college athletics at every level would probably be affected permanently based on what we do as a conference.
I am happy to engage personally but know you are maintaining a very busy calendar.
You did tell me and Ronnie that you work for us. From all of us here at the University of Nebraska System, we are still supportive of a Fall Sports schedule to include football.
Warren and the Big Ten canceled the fall season a day later, and Nebraska ended its short-lived rebellion against its conference two days after that.
While history may end up validating the decision to cancel, this email is the best example we're going to get of how the process leading to that decision was a failure.
While Warren remained in communication with the Big Ten's presidents, ADs and medical personnel, those groups were not talking to each other. When it ultimately came time to put the season to a vote, Warren spoke on behalf of the ADs -- despite the fact he works at the behest of the presidents, not the ADs.
The left hand did not know what the right hand was doing, and so when the season was canceled the left hand started smashing things and didn't care about the fallout.
And when it came time to explain the decision, only Warren spoke on behalf of the conference and offered zero concrete answers.
Contrast that with the Pac-12, which kept everyone in the loop, made multiple officials within every level of the decision-making process available to speak, and released a 12-page report detailing their findings and explaining their conclusions.
Warren, a newcomer to college sports, learned the hard way how business is done at this level. In college sports, no job is offered until it's already been accepted and no vote is taken until the outcome is unanimous.
“When you make difficult decisions, you turn around and look back and wonder what you can do better,” Warren told The Athletic last week. “I know one of the things that we will focus on — at least me, personally — will be to improve our communication not only internally but externally.”
The messages coming out of Nebraska, both public and private, from two Mondays ago were warning signs that the Big Ten was not ready to come to a decision yet. Instead, Warren pressed on, and the rest is history.