Mark Emmert, the N.C.A.A. president, said he had not talked with the White House since April. And both he and Denis McDonough, a former chief of staff to President Barack Obama who was on the N.C.A.A.’s top board until last month, both said that the association’s decisions in recent months had not been made because of lobbying by any elected officials.
Greg Sankey, the SEC commissioner, said he had been in touch with some public officials during the pandemic but that the conversations amounted to “supportive, how can we be helpful” exchanges, not efforts to pressure him toward a season in a region that reveres football but has been ravaged by the virus.
But since the Big Ten’s chancellors and presidents voted not to proceed with the season as originally planned, Warren has faced swelling pressure from within his league and politicians beyond it.
Trump took interest in the season’s viability the day before the Big Ten’s decision, retweeting a post by Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in support of the athlete-driven #WeWantToPlay movement. Lawrence and Trump spoke later in the week by phone, the president said at a news conference on Aug. 15, when he mentioned the recent postponements by the Big Ten and the Pac-12 and said, “I wish they would come back.” (Clemson, a member of the A.C.C., is playing this season.)
The Big Ten’s move left Trump aides bombarded with requests for White House intervention. Many of the pleas went to Timothy Pataki, a senior official who played lacrosse at Ohio State and remained close to the school, among the most vocal in its opposition to the decision not to play on time this fall.
Late last month, Pataki contacted Warren and asked whether he would be willing to speak with the president. Trump called the next morning.