Instead of preparing for the soccer opener in Illinois this week, a group of soccer parents from the state of Ohio are waiting for a response from Big Warren Commissioner Kevin Warren that may never come.
Less than a month ago, the Big Ten announced their conference schedule. By August 11, the university presidents made a U-turn and postponed fall athletics with the following Pac-12 suit. Since then, the other “Power Five” conferences, along with some “Group of Five” institutions, have decided to compete in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The American Athletic Conference of the University of Cincinnati plays on site as well as Kentucky and the Southeastern Conference. Indiana and Ohio State in the Big Ten are on the sidelines along with the Miami RedHawks of the Mid-American Conference.
College football began Saturday night in Montgomery, Alabama, with the FCS opener between Central Arkansas and Austin Peay.
None of this goes well with a number of Big Ten parents. Ohio State Football Parents officially protested at Ohio Stadium last Saturday. One of those parents was Monica Johnson, mother of Ohio state lineman Paris Johnson Jr., who last completed his senior prep season at Princeton High School.
“I don’t think I’m asking much,” Johnson said of her remarks. “I just want to know how you came to this conclusion? What’s the next step? It’s not a difficult question for me. I just can’t understand why it fell on deaf ears.”
Several parents came up with signs and even some Ohio state baseball parents were in attendance as they had just seen the loss of a spring season. Buckeyes offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was in attendance while defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs and head coach Ryan Day shared their support via Twitter for the various efforts others have made to bring the state of Ohio to the field.
In addition to Saturday’s protest, Ohio state quarterback Justin Fields received a tremendous response to a petition from MoveOn.org that read #WeWantToPlay. In Nebraska, eight Cornhusker players have filed lawsuits demanding the same.
Maybe some of the steps work. Initially, the Big Ten hinted at a possible spring season, then the conversation began about January. Recently Thanksgiving was being circulated as a possibility.
“I don’t even know how true November is,” said Johnson. “I know the coaches and (Ohio State AD) Gene Smith are pushing for us to play sooner rather than later, but they can’t even tell us anything. They only hear talk. Nothing is specific. I can’t even hang mine Hat on it. “
Monica Johnson has watched her son play soccer since he was 5 years old. Blessed with a 6-foot-7,300-pound framework, he worked his way up to become the top recruit in Ohio and the top national recruit in his position.
“He’s going through stages of grief,” said Johnson. “One moment he accepts it, one moment he denies it, and one moment he is sad. One thing I can say about him, spiritually, is that he said, ‘Mom, I can’t control what the big one Ten-commissioner decides, but I can control how I will answer. ‘”
Paris Johnson volunteered with the team for 12 hours a week. In addition, he is alone, works outside, studies tape or studies his playbook. He’s also adding an extra class as they are no longer in season.
However, the mental part of the equation involves Monica Johnson along with the sheer injustice of everything. St. Xavier senior Justin Hilliard missed most of his first two Buckeyes seasons and was given a sixth year for 2020 so far decided by university presidents and administrators.
He should be a horse chestnut captain.
“Paris will be fine. He’s a newbie,” said Johnson. “I’m worried about Justin Hilliard. This is his sixth year and he’s had injuries that he couldn’t control. He stayed positive and optimistic and eventually got his shot. My heart breaks for this to happen.”
For her own son, for Hilliard, and for coaches who can’t come out and speak in public, Johnson feels like an advocate for support. She has no issues with head coach Ryan Day or AD Gene Smith, both of whom were approachable. But she feels the Big Ten didn’t keep her fully informed.
Then there’s the thorny question of whether Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren’s son is a member of the Mississippi state soccer team that is supposed to play in the SEC.
“It doesn’t look good,” said Johnson. “What is the SEC doing that the Big Ten don’t? Are they doing everything right and we are not? For you to come out and publicly state that this was a family decision for him to play, but you took away our family decision? I am struggling with it ! “
Whatever dates the Big Ten used, Johnson would love to see them along with fellow Buckeye parents. The problem is that those who made the decision are unwilling to reveal the details. These details could be disclosed in court.
For the Buckeye parents, the fourth quarter hasn’t hit triple zeros yet. It is still early in this competition that will never produce a winner.
“We’re not going to take our foot off the gas,” said Johnson. “We’re moving forward because they only gave us time. Since they took our Saturdays away, we’ve got all day now!”
If the parental moves are successful, Johnson is hoping for a joint tailgate between Ohio State and Nebraska.