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OSU AD Gene Smith Provides Athletics Updates, ‘Return to Play’ Discussion

Chase Young reinstated Gene Smith press conference

Ohio State University Director of Athletics Gene Smith took part in a teleconference Friday morning to answer questions from reporters regarding the current state of affairs within the OSU athletic department and the immediate- and near-future of sports at Ohio State.

Gene Smith

+ Smith began by offering his condolences to those who have lost loved ones during this time. He also shared his gratitude for those workers on the front lines who have been diligent and have sacrificed so much. He also thanked the coaching staff who have been able to handle this new normal. He also thanked the entire athletic department for how they have been able to continue helping the student-athletes through all of this.

+ The ADs in the Big Ten have had morning calls for the last three weeks. Most of the time has been spent on what they were dealing with in that moment. “We have not begun our discussions on models for the football season.” They have begun discussions on the “return to play” aspect for the football players. Is it four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks? They want to avoid injuries that would occur because they intensity of workouts have declined in the offseason. This has been their focus of late, and this discussion will then allow them to move forward with the models. And this will be a national decision among all administrators and the NCAA. “All of these entities have to collaborate…” Many of these decisions will be based on where the states are. There are different dates for when gatherings can return. Ohio was blessed to have some earlier tough decisions made by the governor.

+ This fiscal year, Ohio State will end up in a good spot. The lack of spring expenses helped. They are looking at different budgets for the next fiscal year. At the end of this fiscal year they will be at around a 10.3 million dollar reserve.

+ Paycuts for coaches have not yet been discussed, but there has been a freeze in hiring and there is a reduction in budgets. But they have talked to some of their coaches about the blessings that they have and the need to help others at this time.

+ The first B1G coaches call was last Thursday morning and Ryan Day had already had a bunch of talks with directors and doctors about how long it would take to return to play and he put together some ideas that he verbalized with the other coaches. But no models yet.

+ Football success contributes to the overall morale at Ohio State and that is important even outside of the money that it brings, which funds many of the other sports.

+ There were 70 spring student-athletes who could return, but 39 chose to move on. The 31 returners are the equivalent of 14.28 scholarships, which is a little north of $630,000. It will cost around $320,000 to have those 31 players stick around.

+ Is there a hard deadline for a plan for college football? Smith hasn’t talked to his colleagues about this year. The “return to play” window is the big thing right now. Do they maybe need more time now? He doesn’t know. Maybe you need two weeks without pads? That’s where the collaboration has to occur with strength coaches and medical people. The hard date will come once they have a better idea of the return to play timeframe.

+ Smith wondered if Ohio gets back to normalcy sooner than other states, can the athletes from out of state travel to Ohio to get back to school? Can Gee Scott get here from Washington? “We don’t know.” Then what will the new guidelines for gathering be? The team is 100 players. They can’t get lax in their social distancing right now, so he will rely on the experts on when it will be okay to have these group dynamics occur.

+ The NCAA should be making a statement today regarding what needs to happen regarding the return of football. The administrators have been discussing the return of football most “obviously.

+ It is very difficult to think about models for the college football season right now and he struggles with that. He has read about them but he hasn’t gone into deep thought about them yet.

+ Asked if there could be a full season if things don’t start on time, Smith said he didn’t know. There are too many elements to that kind of schedule to go down that path just yet.

+ The athletic department has been able to provide nutrition to some athletes based on their circumstances. They have also provided some workout equipment and devices to some players. “We haven’t done the watch thing (that Alabama did).”

+ Smith has struggled with the thought of no fans in the stadium for games. When he first heard about it, he thought it could work. But the more he thought about it, if it’s not safe for the fans, why would it be safe for the players? That’s the conversation that needs to happen in order to learn his blindspot on that. Is it because you can’t have people sitting that close together or there’s no way to monitor if the fans are healthy? “We’ve got to have experts.”

+ It would have a major impact to have no fans in the stands for football. They would have to return season ticket money, for one. He hasn’t begun to look at the cascading effects of what would happen with no football fans in the Ohio Stadium.

+ The spring fundraising has not been able to happen, which has also impacted the financial situation at Ohio State. “They’re not major events…” with the exception of the Buckeye Club events.

+ One concern at the outset of this was how they were going to help the football players stay in shape and he was worried about where they would go and who would engage with them. Fortunately, “we have accountable kids.” He doesn’t have any concerns about Master Teague doing what is needed because he is an accountable kid and his parents are great. He feels good about the guidance provided and the access the strength staff has.

+ The ADs are relying on the conference commissioners to give them guidance regarding football and the return to play timeframe. Player safety is going to be paramount.

+ Asked if college football can take place if students aren’t on campus, he asked why would it be safe for student-athletes and not students? “How does that work?”

+ He’s not looking at the model of playing next spring. He is still hopeful there is a season this year and that is how he is operating. “That might be naive on my part, but I have to believe that something is going to happen.”

+ “We’re not going to rush this…” this is a societal issue. “We’ve got people dying.”

+ They are just getting into the discussions with the CFO on what would happen if there are no fans permitted on campus and around the games. Each home game brings about a $5M-7M net. They are getting ready to go through the schedule and project what they think each home game would bring and how much of a hit they would take by reducing the season.

+ Regarding football season ticket holders, the renewal deadline has been extended and additional payment plans have been added. If there is no season, season ticket holders will be reimbursed. They have only had 10 people call up and ask for their money back so far.