Although Ohio State football players will be returning to the field, it will be missing its 10th unit: the fans.
The Big Ten greenlighted a nine-game season for conference football starting Oct. 23, however, the decision came with the caveat that spectators would not be allowed to attend. Leaning on the advice of the Big Ten medical subcommittee, the Big Ten members prioritized giving the players the best chance to play.
“Our primary objective, obviously, is get the game played,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said Wednesday in a Zoom call. “I agree with the medical task force and their recommendation. Let’s see how the games emerge over time.”
Smith said that the logistics of safely operating concession stands and bathrooms would be a challenge.
“Let’s mitigate the risk,” Smith said. “Let’s make sure we get the games played and played in a safe way.”
President Kristina M. Johnson said that limiting the density of the crowd was a recommendation, so it could be revisited down the road, but Johnson said new evidence would have to become available on how it would be safe.
“We would have to, again, have really informed, scientific evidence that we can actually have fans and not cause an epidemic,” Johnson said.
While the public sale of tickets will still not be permitted for the time being, the Big Ten is still searching for avenues to get the families of student-athletes and the coaching staff in the stands.
“We are looking to see what we can do on a campus-by-campus basis to accommodate the families of our student athletes, both home and away, as well as the families of staff,” Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said.
Although some colleges, such as Florida State, and professional sports teams have allowed a reduced amount of fans in their stadiums, the Big Ten still made the decision to close the door on allowing fans in the stands.
Jacqui Roemer, a first-year in finance, said the lost opportunity to spend a Saturday in Ohio Stadium upset her and pointed to how professional sports have had fans in the stands as a justification for the Big Ten to allow fans in.
“I would say I’m sad about it mostly,” Roemer said. “It’s a small amount of frustration just because if professional sports are allowed to do it and they’re finding a way to do it safely then there’s a way to do it.”
Vice President of Block “O”, Ohio State’s official student section, Catie Cleveland said that although she is disappointed, the return of football is important to the identity of Ohio State.
“I think that is such a big part of the culture at Ohio State,” Cleveland, a third-year in pharmaceutical sciences, said. “Playing and not necessarily even being able to go to the games but just watching the games I think is a huge part of Ohio State’s culture and traditions.”
Cleveland said Block “O” is looking at virtual watch party options, but she says that they have “not given up” on doing something in person — possibly in the form of a watch party that utilizes distanced circles like those seen on the Oval.
Although Alex Abbott, a second-year in accounting, believes football is better than no football, he shared in Roemer’s confusion over the Big Ten not allowing fans with other universities making a different call.
“I was watching games the other weekend, and you look at Notre Dame, who’s in Indiana, and they have fans,” Abbott said. “And they got students and the band. Then there’s other teams that have fans in the stands, and it’s kinda upsetting that we can’t have fans while around the league there are other teams that have fans in their stands.”
Roemer, who said she partially came to Ohio State to attend football games, feels the weekly testing of students would make her feel comfortable attending games.
At the May 29 deadline for Ohio State season-ticket renewals, 44,320 season tickets had been renewed for a renewal rate of 88 percent.
Nathan Ricker, an Ohio State alumni and season-ticket holder for 25 years, said that he was not surprised by the Big Ten’s decision to not allow fans into the stadiums for the season.
“That is exactly what I expected today is that there would be no fans,” Ricker said. “I knew the only way this would be accomplished, that we would have a season, is by not having fans in the stadium.”
While Ricker said that he is upset he won’t be able to continue his 25-year streak in Ohio Stadium, he said that he’s happy that the Buckeyes get a shot to play.
“What’s the lesser of two evils here? Not having college football, not watching my beloved Buckeyes play or me sitting in the stands, risking people getting sick and then canceling altogether after the fact?” Ricker said. “I think the best decision is just not allowing people into the stands whatsoever.”
Despite missing out on gamedays at Ohio Stadium, Ricker said he’ll be using a new addition to his house to watch the renewed addition to the fall.
“I built it for the intention of watching the non-Ohio State football games and watching the Browns play,” Ricker said. “Now, I guess, I’ll be using that pavilion to watch the Buckeyes play as well. But, I’m just very happy I’ll have the chance to watch the Buckeyes play this season.”