A lawsuit filed on Aug. 27 by Nebraska football players accused the Big Ten of breach of contract for postponing the season. Players are asking for the Big Ten to renounce its reasons to postpone the season and admit those reasons were flawed so that they can compete this fall. They’re also seeking up to $75,000 in damages.
“This lawsuit isn’t about money or damages, it’s about real-life relief,” Mike Flood, an attorney representing the players, wrote in a statement. “Sadly, these student athletes have no other recourse than filing a lawsuit against their conference. … Our clients must take their claims to the Courthouse to find the justice and fairness they have been denied the Big Ten Conference that has failed to answer basic questions.”
Among other grievances, the suit referenced the fact that multiple Big Ten university presidents made public statements saying that the presidents council had never taken a formal vote regarding whether to postpone the season. The suit also claims that “athletic directors at all fourteen Big Ten institutions were in favor of playing the 2020 fall football season.”
Some players potentially stand to lose millions if they don’t have a chance to play football this fall, given that improving their game tape and draft stock could score them major contracts in the upcoming NFL draft, Front Office Sports previously reported.
While Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren initially refused to disclose details regarding the alleged vote or specific reasons behind why the conference canceled, he released an open letter last week assuring that the decision was final. Warren also provided multiple factors in the decision-making process, including concerns about long-term health effects of COVID-19 and rising cases.
Front Office Sports has previously reported on myocarditis, a potentially lethal heart inflammation condition and complication of COVID-19 that has concerned conference officials.
“The Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) overwhelmingly voted to postpone the fall sports season based on medical concerns and in the best interest of the health and safety of our student-athletes. This was an important decision for our 14 member institutions and the surrounding communities,” the Big Ten said in a statement.
“We share the disappointment that some student-athletes and their families are feeling. However, this lawsuit has no merit and we will defend the decision to protect all student-athletes as we navigate through this global pandemic. We are actively considering options to get back to competition and look forward to doing so when it is safe to play.”
In a statement to Front Office Sports, sports law expert Dan Lust explained whether he believes the lawsuit has legs. “Nebraska players are asking for an injunction to stop the Big Ten from implementing a formal cancellation of fall football,” Lust wrote. “It’s very difficult to prevail and override the conference’s bylaws absent proof of egregious conduct. Although Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren refuses to provide full transparency regarding what transpired, this will come out through discovery and this could potentially reveal the conduct the players need for their case.”
Regardless of the lawsuit’s success, Lust said, it will certainly “keep the pressure on Warren as he fights for his job.”