The big debate about whether or not to have college sports this fall was never going to have an easy answer, but there was never any question that newly appointed Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren was going to make the decision he felt was in the best interest of the thousands of student-athletes in the conference.
That’s what he did this week when the Big Ten postponed fall sports, including football, until the spring, and likely lost the entire season.
A lot of people think coronavirus issues were the sole deciding factor, but administrators and coaches took into account all kinds of variables — including the mental and physical benefits of playing this season.
The Gophers football team already had dealt with this with two different stories in the past few weeks. One was that the team hadn’t had a single positive COVID-19 test during practices, which was a huge accomplishment for coach P.J. Fleck and the medical staff. At the same time, All-Big Ten wide receiver Rashod Bateman opted out of the 2020 season so he could stay healthy and train for the NFL draft, where he will surely be a high pick.
Those kinds of stories were going to be common, whether the football season was postponed or not. Top college football players have a lot of to weigh when it comes to their future. But there were also hundreds of players who expressed that they wanted to play this season without a doubt, as long as safety measures could be put in place.
You also have to wonder if Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino is planning on a postponed season as well, because it seems unlikely the Big Ten could start that campaign on time after postponing fall sports.
Spring ball unlikely
And while the conference might talk about a spring season, the odds are there won’t be a football season at all for the Big Ten.
This isn’t a small conference where players can wait around to play. Hundreds of the top juniors and seniors will be getting ready for the NFL draft by the spring of 2021, just like Bateman.
What’s amazing is that all of these decisions are being made by conferences, instead of the NCAA showing some leadership.
The fact is the Big Ten might postpone its season, but other conferences such as the SEC and ACC are not going to follow that lead. That might hurt the Gophers football team in recruiting and player development, but there’s no doubt they view that as secondary to ensuring player safety.
When Warren took the Big Ten commissioner’s job, after being the Vikings chief operating officer, it was one of the smartest hires any major college conference ever made.
He told me then that one of the reasons he took the job was because of his close relationship to college athletics, from being a student-athlete himself to his two children also being college athletes.
“I think the important elements from a commissioner’s standpoint, from at least where I will stand and from my viewpoint, is that first and foremost, we need to make sure we create an environment that is holistic and positive to make sure that the student-athletes are taken care of,” Warren said. “That we can empower them, embrace the student-athletes, give them an opportunity to get a great, world-class education.
“This is an opportunity with this platform that we can touch the lives of so many people in and around college sports, but primarily touch the lives of student-athletes and put them in an environment where they can get a world-class education, they can become better people that will last for their lifetime. That is what I’m excited about.
“For my daughter [Peri] to be a great student, she just graduated from Occidental College and a great athlete. Then my son, Powers, who is at Mississippi State now and he is in the middle of it. For me to be a student-athlete, although many years ago, but just to be around it, I think it provides us with an opportunity to do so much good for the public at large.”
Warren stayed true to that statement this week, and did the best he could in an impossible situation.
The Twins were ready for starter Jose Berrios to make another big leap this season, after reaching back-to-back All-Star Games in 2018 and ’19.
But so far, some of the struggles the 26-year-old Berrios had at the end of last season are still showing up at the start of the 2020 campaign.
In the first half of 2019, Berrios was 8-5 with a 3.00 ERA over 18 starts with 104 strikeouts in 117 innings. But in the second half, while he went 6-3, he posted a 4.64 ERA over 14 starts with 91 strikeouts in 83⅓ innings.
So far this season, Berrios is 1-2 with a 5.31 ERA.
Still, the Twins coaching staff says it is not worried about Berrios.
“People may think Jose got off to a rough start just because of the result, but in the Twins camp, we’re really happy with where Jose is at,” pitching coach Wes Johnson said. “You look at his velocity, you look at his movement, plots and charts, he is really close.
“We asked him to do some things in the offseason different from what he normally has, and he has done those. I think we’re seeing some results from it. It seems like these first three outings, it has just been a pitch or maybe two that hasn’t got executed and if those two pitches were executed, we wouldn’t even be having a conversation like this about Jose. That’s the way we look at things. We’re really happy with where he’s at and he’s continuing to get better.”
• The Timberwolves traded Dario Saric and the No. 11 overall pick (Cameron Johnson) to Phoenix in the Jarrett Culver draft-day deal last year, and they both are having a lot of success for the Suns, 7-0 since the NBA restart. Saric is averaging 14.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game during the streak. Johnson is averaging 13 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
• According to Spotrac, the Twins’ adjusted payroll for the 2020 season is $49 million, which ranks 20th in baseball and is just below the league average of $58.6 million. The Twins rank beneath the White Sox ($52.2 million) but ahead of the Tigers ($43 million) and Indians ($37.5 million). Righthander Jake Odorizzi is the Twins’ highest-paid player, earning $6.6 million of his $17.8 million base salary.
• With a record number of rookie draft picks and some veterans leaving the club, the Vikings now have an average age of 24.96, which is the fifth-youngest roster in the NFL, trailing the Jaguars, Dolphins, Rams and Packers. The oldest club in the league is the Saints at 26.5 years.