Ohio State Director of Athletics Gene Smith confirmed Wednesday football players will be back on campus for voluntary workouts soon.
The NCAA Division I council cleared the way for that when it reportedly voted to allow a moratorium on all athletics activities on campus to expire at the end of May according to ESPN and Yahoo! Sports. The decision only covers football and men’s and women’s basketball.
Ohio State facilities have been closed to athletes since March when the coronavirus pandemic essentially brought the entire athletic world to a halt, but with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine restrictions on travel and business, the Ohio State coaching staff has started to work at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in shifts.
“We’ve planned on June 8,” Smith said, confirming earlier reports by LettermanRow.com and 247Sports.com. “Some players have leases with apartments, some don’t, so some will come back after June 8. Some are already here. So it will be staggered.”
If football players are allowed to begin workouts in June, Smith said it would be with various precautions.
Those include temperature checks prior to entering the facility and increased sanitation practices.
“We’ll have limited access to those facilities and student-athletes have to sign up,” he said. “They’ll go through protocols — not testing, but they’ll go through protocols, temperature checks and things of that nature, and then we have all the hygiene and sanitation requirements and so basically ‘X’ number of players will work out, nine or 10, they’ll disappear, the room is cleaned and then another group will come in and they’ll work out and the room is cleaned.”
Smith said lessons learned from allowing football players back into the WHAC could also provide lessons for eventually opening more of the campus facilities, including the Schottenstein Center and the Covelli Arena.
Additionally, the OSU AD indicated he has warmed up to the idea of playing football games this fall with no fans in the stands, but he is still optimistic that will not be necessary.
Members of the department have started to look at what kind of crowd could be hosted while maintaining social distancing practices and came to a figure of around 20-22,000 fans at Ohio Stadium, which holds more than 100,000.
He still sees a full 12-game football season as a possibility, though a shorter season is possible.
The decision to have a full season with the regularly scheduled start dates – late August and early September – would need to be made around in early July.
“We need to not rush this, and I know everyone is anxious to do that, but we need to have the opportunity for our medical experts to continue to collect data and see how our human behavior responds in the reopening environments across the country,” Smith said. “We can look state by state, but we need to take into consideration not just Ohio but all other states. So we need to allow time, which in my view may take all of June. Different schools will make decisions on reopening at different times. So we need to allow that to cascade over time.
“But I think somewhere in early July we need to have clarity on what we’re doing because one we we need to think about the student-athletes and their families and what their schedule looks like and their world and then of course we need to consider the operational time that needs to be put in place to manage or whatever we ultimately do.
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