Rutgers prez calls Trump remarks ‘cheap politics’

  • College football reporter.
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2008.
  • Graduate of Northwestern University.

Rutgers president Jonathan Holloway described President Donald Trump’s involvement in the push to start the Big Ten football season as “cheap politics.”

Speaking to NJ Advance Media, Holloway said Trump’s involvement in the Big Ten’s situation will not impact his decision on when Big Ten sports should resume. Trump spoke last week with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren in a 20-minute conversation both sides described as productive.

The president has tweeted several times about his desire for the Big Ten season to begin and several governors who could be standing in the way. During a campaign stop Thursday in Michigan, Trump told reporters, “We want to see Big Ten football. We hope it’s coming back. The players are missing a big opportunity. They have some of the best college players in the country.”

Holloway, who took over as Rutgers’ president in July after serving as provost at Northwestern, said he isn’t enamored with Trump’s involvement.

“I mean, it’s just cheap politics,” he told NJ Advance Media. “I want that person to be paying attention to matters of national security and national importance. This does not rise to that level — not for a half-second. And even if it was a president that I was completely in love with that was doing this, I’d still think it would be cheap politics.”

Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted Aug. 11 to postpone the fall sports season, including football, because of concerns around the coronavirus pandemic. Holloway was among the 11 presidents and chancellors who elected to postpone, and told NJ Advance Media that his position won’t change until the COVID-19 situation improves, including in Big Ten states such as Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska.

“If I’m wrong because I was erring on the side of safety, I don’t have a problem with that,” said Holloway, who played football at Stanford, where he was teammates with Cory Booker, now a U.S. senator representing New Jersey. “I don’t think I’m wrong, though. I just don’t think it. And if I had to put money down, we’re going to see some radical changes within a month — no later than October. I’m really worried about what we’re heading toward, on just college campuses in general, not just sports. It’s deeply concerning.”

State political leaders from six states with Big Ten schools wrote to Warren and league presidents and chancellors this week, asking them to reverse the postponement. The Big Ten responded that it is working “to identify opportunities to resume competition as soon as it is safe to do so.”

The Big Ten’s return to competition task force has been working on improved testing and other medical benchmarks that, if reached, could kick off the football season. Ohio State coach Ryan Day and others are pushing a return as early as mid-October. According to Big Ten bylaws, at least nine of the 14 presidents and chancellors would need to vote to approve the resumption of competition. A vote could take place early next week, sources said.

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