Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith took part in a teleconference Wednesday afternoon to provide updates on where things stand regarding the return of college football. Smith spent over 45 minutes taking questions from various media members. You can see all of the highlights of what was said below.
+ There are a lot of challenges and decisions that have to be made yet, so he’s not sure how many questions he’ll be able to answer right now.
+ Every decision being made as an institution is built around making sure the health and safety of the students and staff is at the forefront.
+ Has his view changed on having games without fans in the stadium? That is still an ongoing conversation that everyone is having. He struggled with that at the beginning, but he is becoming more comfortable with it if that’s where things end up. He’s hopeful that there won’t be empty stands. There could be a strategy for making it safer for an x number of fans. “I think we can get there.”
+ How do they determine which fans get in? They would have to look at their points system that they have in place. They would look at all different constituencies in terms of ticket holders. Season ticket holders, parents, guests of coaches, etc. They have not nailed it down, but they have discussed the social distancing aspect which would probably take them down to 20,000-22,000 fans. They haven’t gotten deep enough to discuss masks and things like that.
+ The perfect scenario for playing would be a national solution, even if it is just playing conference games. Twelve games is ideal, of course. It is best that all 14 Big Ten teams play, but they haven’t discussed what happens if one team can’t play. “We should be able to find a way to not penalize all of the schools.”
+ They have not yet discussed what happens if a player comes down with the coronavirus. They will leave that up to the medical staff. At some point they will get to a discussion.
+ They are awaiting direction from the Division I Council right now on players returning and what can be done for them. He is hopeful that the decision today will allow student-athletes to return on June 8 for voluntary workouts. They will be monitored, but not tested upon their return. Players would be allowed in the workout areas 10 at a time and things would be wiped down, then 10 more would come in, etc. The Division I Council votes on that today, but then OSU would also have to allow players to enter the buildings.
+ Early July would be the timeline for knowing if non-conference games are going to happen this year. “We need to take into consideration not just Ohio, but other states.”
+ Having players back at the WHAC would put them in a safe environment and safer than most environments they are in right now. They have monitoring, professionals, resources, education, etc.
+ The Big Ten is supporting of extending the moratorium on organized team activities through June 30. They are supportive of lifting the moratorium on voluntary workouts in university facilities.
+ If a player tests positive now, they feel pretty confident through the symptoms checks and hygiene situation, they’ll be fine. The medical staff will give them guidance on what to do next. They may decide to shut the building down. They’ll rely on the medical staff to direct them.
+ Eventually, more than 10 players will need to be in the building at a time. That may have to start in the six-week window before the first game.
+ He’s not 100% comfortable yet in having players play. He’s constantly being educated about the virus as well as the safety aspects of what can be done. “I am hopeful and cautiously optimistic that I’ll get to 100% comfortable, but I’m not there yet.” Medical experts need to give them the proper environment and operations in that environment to play the game, and that conversation hasn’t happened yet.
+ There are some cost-containment measures that have taken place internally. He complimented the coaches on looking into cost reduction measures. So far, they haven’t had to go to certain levels that other schools have, but they may have to. There have been no deep discussions about eliminating any sports, but there has been some talk.
+ If players are allowed to return June 8, some won’t be on campus immediately because they have leases/rent that they are still paying on somewhere else. It will be a staggered return.
+ It’s unrealistic to play football with masks on and if masks are needed, “we won’t be playing” because it’s not safe enough.
+ Out-of-state players returning would go through symptom checks but not have to quarantine, unless the medical staff found reason for it.
+ Asked about flipping sites with Oregon this year and next year, Smith said he has not talked to Oregon’s AD about that. This is the first he’s thought about it, so he doesn’t have a strong thought about it. It would make it difficult because they’d be giving up a home game next year and they wouldn’t have seven home games next year, so he probably wouldn’t be in favor of it.
+ He deferred to legal on what happens if non-conference games don’t happen and payouts are still asked for.
+ What number of games would be satisfactory for him this year? You want the full schedule, clearly. But if they can get the conference schedule played, and maybe even add a 10th game. He’d be comfortable with eight, but would feel better with 10. “Our kids want to play, so it’s hard for me to say eight games wouldn’t be important to them because they would be.”
+ With the players’ health and safety in mind, he wants to bend over backwards to give them a chance to play this season, whether that’s 12 games or eight games.
+ “Everything we’re talking about today is speculative.”
+ People are losing their lives. “That’s just unsettling.” So to not be touched by that, “I wouldn’t understand that.” We have to be as thoughtful about the human part of this thing first and foremost.