It is not yet known just how long the COVID-19 outbreak will keep the American sports landscape shackled, but University President Michael V. Drake said he’s not expecting the football season to proceed as usual.
Drake, who spoke with WOSU’s Ann Fisher Thursday, said in the interview that the university is preparing for a variety of potential outcomes in the fall, and May might bring more answers.
“We’re thinking about it. We’re not assuming, necessarily, that the season is going to start and be like last season was,” Drake said. “That’s not at all a given. We’re not also thinking that there won’t be a season, so something between those two wide error bars is where we’re looking for planning.”
There are more than 5,500 confirmed cases and 213 deaths caused by COVID-19 in the state, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Drake said if the season began in July, it would not begin on schedule, but August and September “may be different.”
“There will be a couple things we have to learn before we know much,” Drake said. “One, it’ll have to be safe for people to come together to have stadiums full of people. We don’t know when that will be.”
The Ohio State Spring Game –– originally scheduled for April 11 –– was canceled March 11, the day before the NCAA canceled all of its remaining championship tournaments through the remainder of the semester.
Drake is the chair of the NCAA Board of Governors.
“We had to make the decision to cancel the March Madness. That was a big decision for the organization,” Drake said. “It affects colleges all –– we have 1,100 member universities and that decision affected all 1,100.”
The Big Ten announced its suspension of all team activities March 13, meaning football spring practices would be canceled. The suspension was originally until April 6, but has since been extended to May 4.
“It is what it is, and it’s the same for everybody else throughout the country,” head coach Ryan Day said March 25. “Good news for us is: A lot of our young guys played, especially in those first 10 games. They got a lot of snaps. Some kids got over 200, 250, 300 snaps last year. Quarterback is returning. So I feel like in terms of game readiness that we do have a fairly veteran team.”
The Big Ten also halted all on- and off-campus in-person recruiting activities March 13, but the Buckeyes have landed one three-star commitment, three four-stars and one five-star for the class of 2021 since then.
“We were hoping the spring practice would give us time to get these kids back on campus,” assistant athletic director for player personnel Mark Pantoni said Friday. “We felt like we could close the deal with some of them. With the limitations, I think a lot of them had their minds made up, and coming on campus would just finalize their thoughts.”
Drake said the university is considering all possibilities and a stadium full of people is just one aspect of the excitement surrounding the football program.
“Whatever it is next year, it won’t be the same as it was last year,” Drake said.
The Ohio State football season is scheduled to begin Sept. 5 against Bowling Green at Ohio Stadium.