Big Ten shutdown creates major void for Ohio State fans
It’s over. Just like that, by a vote of the Big Ten’s 14 schools on Tuesday, there will be no football games this fall for Ohio State and the rest of the Big Ten because of the coronavirus pandemic.
There will be no early season games on a sunny afternoon in Ohio Stadium. No big games under the lights in October or November.
There will be no countdown to the opener against Illinois. Right now, even Jim Tressel can’t tell you exactly how many days there are until the next time Ohio State plays Michigan.
Players, coaches, parents and fans are bitterly disappointed.
Countless people who built their fall Saturday afternoons around Ohio State football will have to find something else to do.
The decision to shut down all of the Big Ten’s fall sports, not just football, came with a suggestion that there could be a football season in the spring of 2021.
Whether that optimistic scenario actually happens remains to be seen.
Big Ten teams, at least most of them, appear to have gone the extra mile to keep their players safe from the virus during conditioning workouts and the first days of training camp.
The only notable outbreak came at Rutgers, which only reinforced its role as the relative the rest of the family tries to pretend they’re not related to.
But in the end, concerns about the virus being spread in the constant contact inherent in a football practice or game led to the season being stopped before it ever started.
During an interview on the Big Ten Network, the league’s commissioner Kevin Warren wouldn’t say if new medical concerns had arisen recently and also wouldn’t say if the vote to not have football in the fall was unanimous.
Some people will say science won. Some people will say fear won.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, both former college football players, come down on the side of science and shutting things down, even if their assent might have been reluctant.
Smith said, “We would have ultimately preferred to move (the opening date for Big Ten football) to Sept. 26, but the science came at us so fast, so we just had to move.”
He said Ohio State wanted to continue the season but supported the decision not to play in the fall.
“We would have preferred to play but at the end of the day the medical advice and science overruled that,” said Smith.
Alvarez said in a statement: “There are also a variety of unknowns about the interaction of COVID-19 with extreme physical exertion. As a result, playing the fall season would pose risks that we think are not acceptable for our student-athletes and our athletic staff.”
From a personal standpoint, covering Ohio State football has been my favorite part of my job for a long time. After missing nine games last year because of a surgery during the season, I was looking forward to a normal OSU season in 2020.
But it has been obvious since March that probably nothing was going to be normal about the 2020 college football season even if the games somehow were played. It would have been a season that took place in empty stadiums or in front of small crowds and with other restrictions.
Normal took its biggest hit yet on Tuesday when the entire season was halted. If there is a spring college football season and that is a big if it would probably be a shortened version of a fall season.
Maybe something like the six-game schedule the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced for high school football last week.
That seems more realistic than trying to play 24 regular-season games in seven or eight months from a scheduling perspective and from a wear and tear on the players’ bodies perspective.
Even that abbreviated season would be welcomed by anyone who cares about college football, though Urban Meyer said Tuesday that there is “no chance” of back-to-back spring and fall seasons in 2021.
“You can’t ask student-athletes to play two seasons in one calendar year,” he said on the Big Ten Network.
Also, it’s hard to be confident there will be a spring season. Wishing COVID-19 would just go away hasn’t been a good strategy so far.
Jim Naveau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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