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Minnesota GOP leaders call for Big Ten sports to continue

Two Minnesota lawmakers joined those from state across the Midwest in a letter to Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren.

Legislative leaders from Minnesota and across the Midwest are asking the Big Ten to reconsider its decision to postpone fall sports due to COVID-19.

Lawmakers including Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, penned a letter to Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren on Tuesday. Other lawmakers to sign on include Republican leaders from Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

The Big Ten made the decision last month to cancel fall sports, though there is a chance those games could be played in the spring. The affected sports are men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball.

The letter cites the impact the decision could have on the athletes as well as financial challenges for Big Ten universities.

“These athletes are losing a vital part of student life and are becoming less marketable to future employers with each passing week. Additionally, our local universities stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars that support student scholarships,” the letter reads.

The lawmakers said they are "confident" Big Ten universities can find safe solutions to allow fall sports given their access to the latest research and medicine. 

While other conferences are continuing on with their seasons, it’s not without complications. According to the NCAA, last week, Iowa State made the decision to play its season opener without any fans. A Tulsa-Oklahoma State football game scheduled for Sep. 12 has also been pushed back due to COVID-19 concerns.

Big Ten schools are also continuing to grapple with how to safely welcome students back to campus.

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Before the University of Minnesota started its academic year, the school announced that classes would move fully online for at least the first two weeks. 

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has also asked that students largely limit their in-person contact for the next two weeks, while UW-Eau Claire implemented a two-week quarantine at six residence halls after an outbreak of COVID-19.

Last week, the Gophers Athletics department announced that 43 athletes had tested positive for the virus since June out of more than 1,400 test, albeit these were conducted before the return to classes.

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