Ohio State football will go on this weekend in front of no fans rather than a few.
The school announced Wednesday afternoon no spectators will be allowed to attend its top 10 matchup against Indiana set to kick off at noon from Ohio Stadium in Columbus. That means family who were allowed to attend the first two games must stay home this weekend.
The move comes shortly after the Columbus Department of Health and the Franklin County Department of Health issued a stay-at-home advisory to begin Friday and last 28 days in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“The health and safety of student-athletes, coaches, spectators and event staff is our top priority,” Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith said in a statement. “We had hoped to continue to allow family members of our student-athletes and coaching staffs to be able to attend games, but circumstances around this pandemic are prompting us to adjust, just as it has throughout the past eight months. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and we will continue to do what is in the best interests of everyone involved.”
A much-smaller-than-usual media contingent will still be allowed in the stadium along with the crew from Fox Sports that will broadcast the game.
Prior to the season finale against Michigan on Dec. 12, the department of athletics will reevaluate the decision not to allow families to attend The Game, but the school indicated families will not be allowed to attend home hockey or basketball games for the remainder of 2020.
Ohio State announced attendance of 1,344 for the season-opening win over Nebraska on Oct. 24 and 1,275 when the Buckeyes beat Rutgers at home Nov. 7.
They averaged 103,383 fans last season.
The football team is scheduled to play at Illinois next week then travel to Michigan State for a Dec. 5 clash with the Spartans.
When the Big Ten announced in September it was reinstating the fall season, playing without regular crowds was one of the stipulations.
That has led to some weird atmospheres, including a nearly silent stadium with the Buckeyes leading 35-3 at halftime against Rutgers in their most recent home game Nov. 7.
Ohio State ended up coasting to a 49-27 win despite being outscored 24-14 in the second half.
“Not to make excuses for our guys but one of the things that’s real is you go up 35-3 and it’s 8:30 or 9 o’clock and the stadium is empty,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “There’s no juice in the stadium, so we have to do that. We have to bring our own energy. It’s something we’ll talk about this week — coming out of that second half. We did it the first game. I thought we did a decent job last week as well. This week, not very good so we’ll focus on that this week.”
Attendance policies vary across the country as sports have returned amid the ongoing pandemic.
The Ohio Department of Health issued an order in August allowing limited attendance at sporting events in Ohio.
The state granted variances to the Bengals and Browns allowing up to 12,000 fans while high school sports have gone on in front of crowds of 1,500 or less depending on the size of venue, though some high schools were also granted variances.
The OHSAA is set to hold six football state championship games Friday and Saturday at Fortress Obetz in Columbus with each school receiving 750 tickets.
According to NCAA statistics, 29 teams have played multiple games and are averaging more than 10,000 fans.
That includes five teams averaging at least 20,000 fans — Georgia (20,524), LSU (21,490), Tennessee (22,357), Oklahoma (22,700) and Texas A&M (25,299).
Notre Dame, the Big Ten’s Midwest neighbor that began the season Sept. 12, is averaging 10,357 fans through five home games.
In late spring, Smith said Ohio State was looking at how to have as many as 20,000 fans socially-distanced throughout Ohio Stadium, but coronavirus cases have moved notably up and down multiple times since then.
Per the local health department orders, residents of Ohio’s capital city and the surrounding county should stay at home as much as possible and not have guests inside their homes, including on Thanksgiving Day, after the positivity rate in the area increased to 12.5% as of last week according to The Associated Press.
Residents are allowed to leave their homes for essential needs such as medical care, grocers, medicine and to pick up food, according to the order.
Indiana at Ohio State, Noon, Fox, 1410