Ohio State brought some athletes back to campus voluntarily in June and played an abbreviated football season after the Big Ten postponed and later reinstated fall sports.
As part of the plan to play in the fall, the conference announced protocols that included daily use of rapid antigen tests to monitor the level of COVID-19 infection within programs with PCR tests (considered more accurate) used to confirm cases.
The Buckeyes won their fourth Big Ten football championship in a row, beat Clemson in the Sugar Bowl then lost to Alabama in the National Championship Game.
After taking about three weeks off, Ohio State began winter workouts Feb. 1.
Spring practice is scheduled to begin March 19 with the spring game tentatively set for April 17, though the format of the latter has not been determined.
“We have been successful in safely hosting nearly 100 athletic events on campus this year with limited disruptions, but this pandemic is not over,” Smith said Tuesday. “We will continue to stress the safety measures of wearing masks, consistent and thorough hand washing and physical distancing and we will remain vigilant in those areas.”
While several other Big Ten schools have regularly announced COVID-19 test results, Ohio State has refused to do so, citing privacy laws.
Iowa announced Monday it had two positive tests and 307 negatives from March 1-7.
Since May 29, the Hawkeyes have conducted over 16,000 tests with 418 positives and one inconclusive.
Michigan announced Friday it had conducted 5,129 tests from Feb. 27-March 5 with three positives, including two players and one staff member.
Since June 11, Michigan reports having administered 77,981 tests to players and staff with 331 positives.
Penn State announced last week it had three positives out of 2,197 tests from Feb. 21-27.
Ohio State had a pause in workouts in July but began preseason camp as scheduled prior to the Big Ten’s decision to “postpone” fall sports in August.
Once the season began, Ohio State had three games wiped out and played multiple games with roster limitations as a result of positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing.
In late January, Ohio State coach Ryan Day expressed optimism the program would be able to get back to normal at some point this year but admitted he did not know when that might happen.
“COVID hasn’t gone away, so it’s not like we all of a sudden can just start getting back to normal, but the goal is, how quickly can we get back to normal?” Day said.
Ohio State is expected to return three starters on the offensive line, all three starting receivers and major contributors at tight end and running back, but Day will be breaking in a freshman starter at quarterback.
The defense, coming off a down year, will have experience up front but all new faces at linebacker and likely a reshuffled secondary.