The Big Ten announced on Wednesday morning that it will allow fans to attend all remaining conference regular season competitions this spring in accordance with local health guidelines and restrictions.
“The decision to follow local health guidelines and restrictions was made jointly by the Big Ten Conference directors of athletics and the council of presidents and chancellors in consultations with university medical experts and the conference office,” the Big Ten said in a statement. “The goal is to transition from a conference-wide approach to local decision-making in consultation with public health departments and university medical experts.”
The announcement comes on the heels of the Big Ten allowing a limited number of fans to attend the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in Indianapolis earlier this month. The decision is effective immediately and includes spring football events.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said in February that the university had no plans to sell tickets to the general public for the annual spring game on April 17, but his hope was to distribute tickets to essential workers who have been on the frontlines during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as family members and guests of the players and coaching staff.
“As of right now, we’re just on hold for the spring game,” Smith said on Feb. 25. “If we’re allowed to have fans, we will not have a ticketed event. It will not be one where we’ll charge. My hope is that we’ll have an opportunity to develop a strategy to recognize our front line people, (like) our nurses, our doctors, our custodians, our bus drivers and all those people who have made so many sacrifices for us for a long time now.
“My hope is that we could come up with a strategy to recognize them and invite them to the spring game and, of course, the parents of our student-athletes. That’s kind of my thinking right now, but we’ve got a ways to go before we get to that point.”
Beginning in April, Ohio will allows sports teams that play in outdoor venues to have up to 30 percent capacity. Employees and spectators will be required to wear masks and pathways that allow for social distancing must be available, while seating pods will be restricted to no more than six people per group, with it being recommended that those groups consist of people from the same household.
At 30 percent capacity, Ohio Stadium would hold 31,483 fans.
The Ohio State athletic communications office released the following statement after the Big Ten's announcement came out:
"In response to the Big Ten Conference announcement today regarding attendance policies at home athletics events for its member schools, the Ohio State Department of Athletics will work internally and with Columbus Public Health to formalize appropriate attendance figures, mapping and social distancing within our athletics venues and facilities. Once we have determined the attendance in our venues, beyond the current protocols of only family members of student-athletes and coaches, we will share that information. We do not anticipate any changes in our attendance policies before this weekend’s athletic events on campus."
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