Dr. Chris Hutchinson Unhappy With Big Ten's Decision: 'Why Pull The Plug?'
The Big Ten's decision to postpone all fall athletics has been met with mixed reviews. Many players, coaches and parents were making the case for a football season in the days and hours prior to the announcement, and that has continued in the aftermath of the conference's determination.
Former Michigan All-American defensive lineman Chris Hutchinson, the father of current junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and an ER doctor at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., is one of the many that is baffled at not only the decision, but the timing of the postponement, which came just six days after the league's revised schedule release.
"That’s the most puzzling part to me — they built in a schedule," Hutchinson said on 97.1 The Ticket's Morning Show. "You could’ve moved games back and not start for a few more weeks. The decision just seemed premature, and there was no reason to make it [Tuesday].
"They announced the schedule, we’re moving forward, why did you pull the plug?"
Hutchinson took to Twitter on Monday to share his thoughts, vehemently supporting Aidan in his desire to play this fall and giving his position, from a medical standpoint, that it is safe to play. However, he believes this choice was made not on the basis of health and safety for the student-athletes, but on the grounds of universities protecting themselves from any liability.
"I believe that risk tolerance was the issue — not risk for getting student-athletes sick, but the risk of being sued — let’s be honest here," Hutchinson said.
"There was no additional medical information out. They just got together and realized that they might get sued because somebody might have some long-term complications, and they shied away from it. That’s my personal belief. From a medical standpoint, that decision was not ready to be made yet."
Hutchinson understands the possibility that players and coaches could contract COVID-19 in a football setting, given the nature of the sport, but points out that risk isn't exclusive to the football field.
"Certainly that is a risk," Hutchinson said. "My belief is that a lot of people have zero tolerance — you get one case and it’s unacceptable. Look at Northwestern, they had one case, shut their entire athletic campus down and then realized it was a false positive. You’re not going to be able to do everything. Then your school needs to be closed, because they’re going to get it in the dorms.
"Where did Rutgers get it from? They had a campus party. Where did Indiana get their COVID from? There was a campus party.
"These aren’t originally coming out of the football building. These are coming from campus events, and clearly that’s undermining my argument, because you don’t think there’s going to be frat parties? Unless the police get involved, there’s going to be frat parties. I’ve driven through Ann Arbor every other week and there’s still people outside. Outside is a little bit different, but they’re packed cheek-to-cheek out there playing beer pong."
He also points out that having a responsibility to a team gives a player more incentive to stay healthy, and steer clear of events on campus that pose a threat.
"I truly believe what Jim [Harbaugh] and [Nick] Saban and [Dabo] Swinney said — most kids that are active in their programs are not going to be going out, especially nowadays when they know that the consequences are," Hutchinson stated. "You’re in the program and you’re getting ready for games — I truly believe that’s the safest environment. That’s safer than going back to the dorm and hanging out and having no responsibilities, or going home and doing your online classes and being around your buddies.
"I truly think that if the season were on, the motivation to not ruin the season for your team is a really strong one, because I think we realize … what happened at LSU? They all went to a club and all got exposed. That information right there has really taken hold and the kids realize that, ‘If I wanna play, I gotta not go to the frat party.’
"The risk is not zero, but the risk is not going to be zero in the dorm room either, and again, a lot safer in a controlled environment where kids are motivated to play football. I just think it was a bad decision, and certainly too early of a decision."
Some around the Big Ten and Pac-12 (who also postponed its fall sports) have invoked myocarditis, a condition that involves heart inflammation, which can be the result of a viral infection such as COVID-19. After many years working in the field of medicine, Hutchinson does not believe that risk is enough to cancel a season.
"Is it a risk? Absolutely," Hutchinson said. "But it is a rare complication.
"If that was what really went into your thinking, that’s just window dressing because they don’t want to get sued. There’s no reason … you can get it from the flu, you can get it from a ton of other [sicknesses], the GI virus, there’s a ton of viral myocarditis. The vast majority of them, especially in young healthy people, are minor events. It would be extremely rare to have a kid get extremely sick and have those complications that they’ve talked about. In my opinion, not enough to trash the fall football season — and all fall sports, for that matter."
In the Big Ten's statement, it said the conference will explore "the possibility of competition in the spring." However, many, including Hutchinson, do not believe a spring college football season is feasible.
"I think they’re kicking it down the road," Hutchinson said. "I don’t believe anything significant is going to change by February, and they’re going to get to the same point in the spring, and they’re going to say, ‘Yeah, we’re not comfortable with where we’re at.’"
Aidan Hutchinson is in a unique position, as he's eligible to be selected in next April's NFL Draft, but doesn't have a 2020 (or even spring of 2021) season to showcase his skills — at least not one that's been scheduled yet.
"If you’re draft-eligible, you have to leave everything on the table, because there is so many unknowns," the elder Hutchinson said. "Is the draft going to be moved?
"Honestly, I was expecting Aidan to have a big year. The way he’s changed his body … he was ready to take the Big Ten by storm and potentially set him up to succeed and fulfill his goals of being a first-round draft pick.
"But now, if you have some of the conferences not play and others do play, that’s going to be awful. If the other conferences do end up playing, that’s going to be such an unfair thing. It’s basically going to force people to stay in [college] because, what, You’re going to judge Aidan by his sophomore film and judge somebody else by his junior film? That’s just not fair, but it is what it is.
"Our conference made a decision, and we have to live with it, even if I think it’s the wrong one."
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