COLUMBUS – Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith met with reporters on Thursday to discuss the future of the upcoming football season following the announcement of the Big Ten conference.
Here’s a summary of what was said.
+ Smith says he spoke with the non-conference opponents’ athletic directors. They will discuss in the future the re-scheduling of those contests. Smith says is too early to know right now but they will talk more next week. The non-conference schools are going through similar discussions in their respective conferences.
+ They made adjustments in the budget and they are working on a two-month budget approved by the trustees right now. As they get more understanding of the future of the events they will be more definitive with the budget. They are very fluid right now. They don’t have decisions made on the payouts of the non-conference schools, they will talk more next week.
+ Smith says he is really concerned with being able to play this fall. He is very concerned. He was previously cautiously optimistic but he is not there anymore based on the behavior of the country. “In May we were on a downward trajectory and now we’re, if not the worst in the world, one of the worst in the world. Franklin County is a level three, almost level four.”
+ Smith is concerned that they may not be able to play. He is concerned about where we are across the board in terms of management of the pandemic but he thinks the Governor Mike DeWine is doing a great job.
+ “People need to follow the protocols and give our kids a chance to compete.”
+ They will follow the lead of their medical experts and the health and safety of the student-athletes is the most important. They will continue to follow their lead but the control of the virus needs to be managed differently. “We are wait and see and take the advice of the experts and then see how environments manage the pandemic.”
+ The team never started full practice. July 24th is when they can start that based on the current schedule but they have to wait and see if they can hold practice and the contests. There will probably have to be some acceptance of it spreading, but they have to mitigate that based on advice from the experts. They just don’t know right now.
+ They haven’t gone into detail about deciding champions, how many number of games, front-loading, spreading it out, a championship, they have not been able to dive deep into those conversation yet. He anticipates next week they will get into the details of how the schedules will work.
+ On how they came to this decision, Smith said they talked about a number of different things over time. They have been having conference calls as AD’s from the time they left the Big Ten basketball tournament in March. They were at seven days a week and then went to five days a week. They finally got to the point where realistically they were asking if they could have a season. It came naturally as they talked about their planning principles; health and safety of student athletes, flexibility and control, conference games allows them to have flexibility, and waiting on academic calendars and university announcements on classes. Now they have September available and can figure out how they want to play and they can be nimble and adjust.
+ He doesn’t know if the decision to eliminate non-conference games will make it safer but the main thing was that they are familiar with the hotels, the visiting team locker rooms, and operations in the Big Ten. They can put in place more protocols conference-wide but the biggest thing for them was having September and being able to have flexibility. They can pause things, move games, etc.
+ He doesn’t see scheduling of games being a big challenge. They just have to understand that the virus will exist and they have to be flexible.
+ He just wants to give all kids a chance to play. They have careers in sports post-graduation or post-season and wants to give them that chance. He is more concerned with the regular season. If they can have a post-season then great, but the regular season is his concern. “I want Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers to have a chance to have a season.”
+ Another issue they have to talk about is starting at week zero, week one, or two. They have to make that decision as soon as possible because of the NCAA’s six week window.
+ Smith said he would be in favor of 10 conference games this year. Next week they hope to lock that down, they have talked about it and that is their preference but they have to wait and see.
+ Decisions on fans and seating has more time and flexibility than the scheduling issue but he thinks they will end up with the CDC requirements of six feet and that takes the stadium capacity down. They will get to that and take the advice of the medical experts. “When I watch the governors help us to help ourselves, I have a hard time seeing it be anything different than the CDC guidelines, if we can even have fans in the stands.” To him, if fans are in the stands, they will be following the CDC guidelines and they have to figure out what those numbers are. Smith said it is a big IF on fans being in the stands.
+ They haven’t discussed a spring football season. It has just been left on the table. The focus has been on the fall.
+ They are evaluating day by day and week by week. They have to make a decision soon on what week they are going to start contests but it is too difficult to say right now.
+ They have a lot of work to do on the budget as they make decisions.