Commissioner Kevin Warren said Thursday that the presidents and chancellors of the leagues agreed last month that each institution will determine its policies with COVID-19. Several Big Ten schools require all students to be vaccinated before the start of the school year, while others are not.
“Our schools are finalizing their proposed policies and procedures for the fall,” Warren said during Big Ten football media days at Lucas Oil Stadium. “We’ll get that information in early August, combine it, and then get together with our chancellors and presidents and other key people to make a decision on how we will handle the fall. One of the things I learned last year is that we are as methodical as possible, that we bring people together. “
Other leagues such as the SEC are not planning to reschedule games for COVID-19 outbreaks and could see teams forfeit if they can’t compete on certain dates.
The Big Ten in 2020 initially canceled their fall football season, before bringing it back under very strict COVID-19 protocols for players who tested positive. Several key games have not been played, including Ohio State-Michigan, and Ohio State has qualified for the Big Ten Championship despite having played only five regular season games.
The Big Ten will soon announce the hiring of a chief medical officer for the season. Ohio State team doctor Dr. Jim Borchers was instrumental in bringing the Big Ten’s medical policies back after the initial cancellation in 2020.
Warren, giving his first Media Day speech as league commissioner after last year’s event was canceled, described 2020 as a difficult year but one for which he is grateful, because it made him helped build and strengthen relationships during the conference. He said that even if there had been disagreements within the league, he would still have made decisions with the health of the athletes at the forefront.
“If we put them at the epicenter of our decisions, we’ll be fine,” Warren said. “And we did it last year at the Big Ten. Maybe the communication wasn’t as clear and perfect as it sometimes could have been. “
Minnesota coach PJ Fleck, who was Warren’s neighbor when Warren worked for the Minnesota Vikings, called the commissioner an “incredible communicator.”
“He’s got a huge heart, he’s a very good person and he’s our leader,” Fleck told ESPN.
Asked about Texas and Oklahoma who may be considering leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, Warren said the Big Ten had had internal discussions about things like the realignment, noting that the league was in the collecting information. The Big Ten in 2010 sparked the last major cycle of realignment in college, which included the addition of Nebraska as a member.
Warren also announced Thursday that former Wisconsin coach and athletic director Barry Alvarez will join the Big Ten as special adviser on football. Alvarez coached Wisconsin from 1990 to 2005, winning three league titles and was the school’s athletic director from 2004 until his retirement on June 30.
Warren has known Alvarez since Warren’s days as a law student at Notre Dame, when Alvarez was Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator.
“I implicitly trust Barry Alvarez,” Warren said. “He represents everything for this conference. We are very grateful that he has agreed to join the conference office.