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LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts waded into the increasingly political fray Monday over the Big Ten’s decision to postpone fall sports because of the pandemic.
At a press conference, the governor said the Big Ten had “made a mistake,” both in the decision it made and how it was announced, and he called for conference officials to reconsider.
“I think the Big Ten has taken a bad approach with regard to this, and I would certainly encourage the Big Ten to reexamine what they’re doing because they’re penalizing a lot of folks here,” Ricketts said.
The governor said conference officials should let member universities make decisions based on the situations in their particular location.
In Nebraska, he said it would be “all manageable” to hold football games this fall. The university had been working on plans, in cooperation with public health officials, before the Big Ten announcement.
While the games would have looked different from other years, Ricketts said he believes they could be conducted safely.
“That’s what I think the Big Ten should think about, is that some states are going to be impacted differently and they should allow different schools to be able to make that choice, given the facts around each locality,” he said.
Ricketts particularly criticized the conference for first putting out a schedule, then turning around six days later and postponing the season. He also criticized the decision to shut down all fall sports, rather than looking at the risks particular to each one. He pointed to cross country as a sport that carries less risk.
“Why are you canceling cross country if you’re worried about what may happen at football games?” he asked.
The governor’s comments add to pressure from Husker players, parents and fans to bring back games this fall, including eight Husker football players who sued the Big Ten last week seeking a reversal of the decision. The players are being represented by Mike Flood, a Norfolk attorney who was previously speaker of the Legislature and is again a candidate for Legislature.