Michael Drake Expects COVID-19 Impact on Ohio State Season

Bruce Hooley

No one can say with clarity what impact COVID-19 and precautions against its spread will have on the college football season, but count Ohio State president Michael Drake among those who expect some adjustments.

“There will be a couple things we have to learn before we know much,” Drake said in a radio interview Thursday. “One, it’ll have to be safe for people to come together to have stadiums full of people. We don’t know when that will be. If the football season was supposed to start in July, we’d say you can’t do that. We’re not going to be a place in July that that would be something we could offer safely. After that, August, September, is maybe different.”

OSU is scheduled to open the 2020 season in Columbus on Sept. 5 against Bowling Green.

The Buckeyes are set to travel to Oregon on Sept. 12.

If those games occur on those dates, Drake doesn't rule out attendance being limited or eliminated.

“The excitement of the enterprise doesn’t depend entirely on a stadium full of people,” he said. “That’s one aspect of it.”

Drake, who is retiring as school president sometime this year, is also the president of the NCAA Board of Governors. In that role, he interacts with college administrators frequently.

The future of college football in this era of coronavirus is among the matters they are currently discussing.

“We’re not assuming, necessarily, that the season is going to start and be like last season was,” Drake told WOSU, a public radio station owned by the school. “That’s not at all a given. We’re not also taking that there won’t be a season. Something between those two wide error bars is where we’re looking for planning.”

That indeed leaves a wide berth to navigate, and creates little clarity from which fans can draw conclusions.

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said Thursday that, "moving (the) entire season or portion of the season to the spring," is being considered.

Drake said the adjustments could be severe or minimal, depending on conclusions regarding the virus that coming into sharper focus over the next month or two.

But he sounds certain the coming college football season will be different from others in some capacity.

“Whatever it is next year, it won’t be the same as it was last year,” Drake said. “One scenario has it being changed in smallish ways. Security and hygiene kind of ways. On the other edge, it’s not safe to do it all. In between, one could imagine different kinds of contests that could take place and are engaging and safe. I’m sure that could be created.”

OSU's last football game to be adjusted from its original date of schedule fell on the Saturday after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The Buckeyes' home game with San Diego State was rescheduled to an open date for both schools one month later.

Ohio State held three spring practice sessions before COVID-19 precautions forced the school to convert to on-line learning and send all students home.

The Big Ten has suspended organized team activities in all sports through May 4.

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