Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted 11-3 to postpone the fall football season, the league confirmed Monday in a brief and two affidavits filed in response to a lawsuit from eight Nebraska players.
The Big Ten's brief targets "three incorrect and unsupportable assertions" in the players' lawsuit, which focused on the vote and the process that led to the Aug. 11 decision to postpone the fall season. Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren on Aug. 19 confirmed the vote, saying that the league's council of presidents and chancellors were "overwhelmingly in support" of the postponement.
The Big Ten on Monday did not list how each school voted, although multiple sources told ESPN that Nebraska, Ohio State and Iowa were the three schools voting against postponement. All three schools repeatedly have voiced their opposition to the decision. League bylaws require at least 60% of the council to approve key decisions. The Nebraska players' lawsuit and others had questioned the process and the mechanics of the vote, noting that Minnesota president Joan Gabel stopped short of describing an actual vote.
The Big Ten filing includes a sworn affidavit from Northwestern president Morton Schapiro, chair of the Big Ten's council of presidents/chancellors, who confirms the 11-3 vote and states that the vote was made "for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes."
The players' lawsuit, filed Thursday in Nebraska, seeks to invalidate the league's postponement of the fall football season and to award damages.
The Big Ten is accused of basing its decision on a single study "that involved COVID-impacted patients who bear little resemblance to the Student Athlete plaintiffs, who are much older than the Student Athlete Plaintiffs, and who are not in similar physical condition as the Student Athlete Plaintiffs."
The Big Ten's brief filed Monday pushes back on the assertion, stating that the vote to postpone is based on "ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the health and safety of the thousands of staff, referees and student-athletes who participate in intercollegiate athletics and the surrounding communities.
"This decision did not occur in a vacuum," the brief reads. "The decision was the result of COP/C members' discussions with members of the Infectious Diseases Task Force and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee."
Nebraska players Garrett Snodgrass, Garrett Nelson, Ethan Piper, Noa Pola-Gates, Alante Brown, Jackson Hannah and Brant and Brig Banks filed the lawsuit, which does not seek damages greater than $75,000 but states that the Big Ten's postponement hurts their future football prospects and their ability to market and brand themselves. The players sought an expedited discovery ruling by Lancaster County district judge Susan Strong.
"The facts are clear that there was indeed a vote that far exceeded the 60% threshold, and the decision by the COP/C 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 league said in a statement Monday. "The Big Ten asks that the motion be denied.
"The Big Ten Conference continues to share the disappointment that student-athletes and families are feeling. The Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force will continue to be transparent as it actively considers options to get back to competition when it is safe to play."