Ohio State Precautions Stretch Close to Football's Start

Bruce Hooley

There are far more questions than answers about the viability of the college football season commencing on time amid national restrictions on social contact to stem the spread of COVID-19.

And, like the virus, the questions are multiplying each day as events unfold that perhaps hint at the future of the sport being compromised, either incrementally or dramatically.

Nothing that happens now passes without notice, and so eyebrows arched upon Ohio State announcing adjustments to its summer term classes that stretch into the month of August.

That, of course, is when the Buckeyes hope to be back in their rooms at the Fawcett Center, across the street from the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, the hub of OSU's preparations for a season it hopes will end with a College Football Playoff championship.

But how can the university, or any university, ask football players to congregate in close contact when all summer classes are being on line as a hedge against the spread of the coronavirus?

That is only one of a host of troublesome issues the NCAA, college presidents and athletic directors must wrestle with amid evolving awareness of the virus' spread, danger and treatment:

  • Can college athletics survive without the primary funding football receipts provide?
  • Will coaches under contract be paid salaries in multiple-millions of dollars, and many assistants -- four at OSU -- in excess of $1 million if there is no season or a shortened season?
  • Will schools honor players' scholarships if they ask to remain virtual students from the safety of their homes, but decline to play football?
  • Does a team suspend practice and its season if a player or players test positive for the virus should the season resume?
  • Are games played or cancelled if a hot zone for viral infections springs up where a school is located?

None of those questions, or the myriad others, can be answered right now because the factors that shape the answers are unknown.

ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit has already stated his skepticism over the season progressing on schedule.

Ohio State's autumn semester is set to begin Aug. 25.

The Buckeyes are scheduled to play their season-opener in Ohio Stadium on Sept. 5.

The next week, they are supposed to play at Oregon.

Oregon is currently among the states least-impacted by COVID-19, with less than 750 cases and 19 deaths. Does that mean the virus won't get there, or in six months will it have arrived to much greater degree?

You can say, flip the home-and-home agreement and allow Oregon to play here this fall and the Buckeyes to play there in 2021.

Would Ohio State want to run the risk of importing an entire football team's traveling party from a hot zone into a state where, presumably, the worst of the virus had already come and gone?

That's how complex the issue is, and why what once seemed unfathomable -- the cancellation or postponement of a college football season -- no longer seems so given events like the Summer Olympics, British Open and NCAA Tournament already being shelved.

For the latest on Ohio State, follow Sports Illustrated Buckeye Maven on Facebook and @BuckeyeMaven on Twitter.

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