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Parental perspective: How parents of Wisconsin football players are feeling about the cancelled season

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Hear what some UW parents had to say about the decision to cancel football for the fall.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 12 Big Ten Tournament - Michigan v Rutgers Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When the news of the Big Ten Conference postponing the fall season until the spring dropped last week, many people across the country were shocked and looking for answers.

After hearing from Athletic Director Barry Alvarez and head coach Paul Chryst, as well as two of the team’s veteran leaders in Eric Burrell and Cole Van Lanen, a sense of frustration was still evident by many people involved across the Wisconsin Badgers athletic department later in the week.

Jump forward to this week, and there are still a lack of answers in what has been a rough week for many across college football.

A recent #WeWantToPlay petition was started by Justin Fields of Ohio State on Sunday — which is already up to over 275,000 signatures in just a few days — calling for a reversal of the decision as a cry for change by players.

Many parents across the B1G have begun to band together and co-write letters voicing their outrage over the cancellation of the season. Parents from Penn State, Nebraska, Ohio State, and many others have done so in the past week.

Now, over the past two days, some parents are looking to protest outside the Big Ten headquarters in Rosemont, most notably parents from Iowa and Ohio State, have already made it known that they will be in attendance.

With that in mind, we at B5Q connected with some parents on the current football team to find out how they were feeling about the decision.

**In an effort to maintain anonymity, no names will be shared, but we will continue to update this post as we hear more responses**

Overall, the decision to not play a fall season was not an easy one, and there are multiple perspectives on the issue. However, the parents we spoke with seemed quite frustrated.

Here is what one parent had to say:

I’m highly upset as a parent. These kids are safer with playing. The colleges have higher protocols in place that these athletes go by, let alone you have high schools in the state gearing up to play. The normal human doesn’t get tested weekly. If these kids don’t play you will see them catch COVID-19 at a higher rate due to other students, etc. The kids worked so hard to meet these expectations just for them to rip the carpet right from under them and that is their future!!!!!

The parent above highlights how the isolated bubble that college football teams have worked hard to create can minimize some of the risks surrounding the athletes with the virus present, given more stringent testing protocols and contact tracing efforts.

Another parent shared similar disappointment with the announcement, saying:

Its very sad in my opinion, because so many other events are being held. I also feel like the boys and parents should have been given an opt in or opt out choice. They could have also had the games and just had them on TV as a worst case option. I think being under the supervision of coaches and being tested weekly kept the boys accountable. I don’t see them being on campus and going to class, etc, will have any less cases than if they are practicing. There will probably be more cases, in my opinion, because the players will be going places and traveling home.

The parent’s insight on accountability has been discussed by many in college football media circles during the past couple weeks. The football season was a unifying reason, and common goal for players to stay accountable for.

After all, the recent events at the University of North Carolina illustrate what college students might do without a higher reason to stay diligent towards safety.

Another parent went on to highlight their irritation with how the decision came about and the lack of information shared with the players from the conference.

We feel completely frustrated with the leadership of the Big Ten and feel we are owed the clarity of what is going on and how they came to their swift action. There was no effort by Big Ten leadership to seek any council from their most important constituents, the players!!!

I would like to know how Commissioner Warren is going to be able to sit in the stands of his son’s Mississippi State games knowing he left his Big Ten athletes sitting in their dorms and apartments feeling like they were cheated out of a season.

I feel they absolutely should’ve let them go through fall camp and made a decision every two weeks to stall or move forward. A complete cancellation so early in the game could have been avoided and SHOULD have been avoided.

This decision made by the conference has obviously not sat well for many, but according to that same parent, the way that the Wisconsin football program has responded has been great.

I’m very happy with how the Wisconsin football program has handled everything. Coach Chryst has been honest & transparent.

That parent went on to say that their family believes Chryst truly wants what their family wants, answers.

Another parent talked about the time an effort that athletes have poured into their craft, only to potentially miss out on a senior season:

This has been his main focus in life since he was in grade school, it is the first thing he thinks about in the morning and the last thing he considers at night. Every decision, activity, effort he makes is with football in at the forefront. It is 13+ fully focused years of pre-work-outs, daily training, lifting, speed training, mental toughness training, film study, discussions and meetings, nutrition, sleep schedules, recovery, injury prevention, injury recovery, rehab, missed social opportunities, missed internships, missed holidays, missed family vacations. It is everything to him!

The responses we received were tremendously thoughtful and open. The decision was not made lightly by the conference, but their reactions all strike a similar note in harmonizing their wish for a different outcome.

This final response to share — lengthily shown below — summarizes the general unsettled feeling that many parents seem to have from everything that has transpired over the past two weeks:

As a parent I believe the Badger Football program has responded to COVID-19 in such a thorough and detailed way that I am very optimistic that the football season can safely take place. Our players and staff know they CANNOT get sick for this season to happen, so their extreme effort to remain healthy has been diligent and 24/7. The community should acknowledge and be grateful that these student-athletes/staff are working so hard, every day, to stay well in our community. The general population doesn’t realize the relentless work involved so they really have no right to vilify these players or try to negatively influence the B1G season.

As a Badger parent I get updates via virtual parent meetings on the ever-evolving, ever-improving football safety protocols and I believe the program will continue to take the necessary critical steps to keep my son safe. We trust our Badger coaches and staff, and my son knows he has a voice on the team and can speak openly. He also knows he can opt out of playing at anytime. My son is a smart student and an adult capable of making his own decision, and he wants to play. He is well-read on COVID-19 and understands the MINUSCULE risks for his age group/excellent physical health. I’m assured too, as the CDC website shows the 0-24 y/o COVID death rate is virtually non-existent, and readings have shown how rare myocarditis is and that playing football does not cause this condition.

No one can say whether shutting down football would ensure that these athletes won’t get COVID-19…in fact, I’d argue that having a football season will help ensure players STAY WELL. Most students will never try as hard as these athletes to NOT contract COVID-19. And with regular COVID testing, and under the care of a watchful bevy of trainers, medical personnel and coaches, I know my son will be safer on this team then free in the community. These athletes know they have everything to lose if they bring COVID-19 to their team and are all dedicated to team health!

I’d argue that the general student population is more likely to get players sick, than the other way around. Rarely will asymptomatic students know they have COVID-19, but these players are regularly tested and would be quickly alerted and quarantined. It’s hypocritical that the regular community is still free to frequent restaurants, shopping malls, grocery stores, gyms, and group get-togethers, but believe they somehow have the right to weigh in on what is a proper risk for my son’s team. That’s really unfair.

The university should take this opportunity to utilize these athletes as influencers, showcasing their efforts and dedication to staying COVID-free. This could be very compelling and helpful to keeping the student body healthy and on campus.

These players are willing to do whatever is asked of them so they can play. For some (many?), football is their career of choice and this succession of football seasons is their only chance to accomplish their lifelong goal. These athletes have trained and sacrificed for so many years to get to this moment…it is grossly unfair for this to be ripped away while most others in our community demand and receive) their right to education or work, even with the risk of contracting COVID.

People also need to realize that this is about money and the Madison economy too. I’m no expert but I’ve read that Badger Football is a $60M yearly business that funds most of the University of Wisconsin Athletic programs. I’m told Badger Football also bring in roughly $100M/year in local revenue for local businesses owners. Cancelling football will devastate our university, our student athletic programs, local businesses and unemployment numbers for years to come.

I am confident we can work together to insure our athletes safety while still protecting the vulnerable community. This team is dedicated to being safe and COVID-free and I trust the football program and they believe they can do this safely. The NCAA, B1G organization, athletic directors, coaches, team doctors, and trainers have so many smart people dedicated to this…We can figure this out. On, Wisconsin!