Ohio State leaders celebrate Big Ten decision to resume fall sports

Ohio State University President Kristina M. Johnson joined Athletics Director Gene Smith and Head Football Coach Ryan Day today in celebrating the decision by the Big Ten Conference to proceed with fall sports including football, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s cross country, by a league-wide unanimous decision of school presidents. The decision reverses the August postponement of fall sports. 

“We are so excited for all of Buckeye Nation and enthusiastically support the decision of the Big Ten Conference leadership to proceed with a fall season. What we have always wanted is an opportunity for our student-athletes to compete in the sports they love,” Johnson said in a Zoom news conference this morning.

President Kristina M.Johnson

“We studied how to create safe environments for our student-athletes through the Return to Competition Task Force, including a Medical Subcommittee co-chaired by our very own Dr. Jim Borchers. The plan developed by the subcommittee, which provides rigorous testing protocols to keep our student-athletes safe when they cannot social distance and wear masks, was crucial in reaching a unanimous decision for our football teams to return to competition and to have our athletics directors work with the coaches of all fall sports to develop schedules for their return to competition.”

The conference’s two-step testing protocol will provide both specificity and sensitivity and support a clean playing field. The plan also addresses the threat of myocarditis by instituting a strict testing protocol and disqualifying student athletes who are diagnosed with myocarditis from competing.

The football season will resume with an eight-game season beginning October 23 and 24. Details about the football schedule, including the date, location and opponent for Ohio State’s first game, will be shared soon. The Big Ten decided not to allow fans in the stadiums at this time. Families, staff, and the media will be permitted under strict safety protocols. The conference will announce updates regarding other fall sports shortly.

The Department of Athletics worked collaboratively with medical professionals to develop the safety protocols. Gene Smith, senior vice president & Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletics Director, said that collaboration helped inform the decision.

“I am extremely pleased and grateful the Big Ten’s Council of President and Chancellors has arrived at the decision to play football this fall. What makes me so confident that we’ve landed on the right decision is the process that we went through to get here, guided by the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force. They did a thorough and exhaustive job with one guiding principle in mind: the safety and well-being of our student-athletes,” said Smith.

“I want to thank our own Dr. Jim Borchers, who co-chaired the medical subcommittee of that task force, for his leadership and expertise. I’d also like to thank President Kristina M. Johnson, who has been completely aligned with Coach Day and me throughout this entire process. Her work has been tireless, and we’re happy that her leadership resulted in a pathway to give our student-athletes an opportunity to play the game they love so much.”

Smith complimented Ohio State’s student-athletes for their response to the university request to follow the protocols that were put in place to contribute to their safety. He said the commitment to adhere to those protocols helped inform the decision to resume play. 

Head Football Coach Ryan Day has continuously advocated for a return to play for fall sports. He said the decision validated the leadership and sacrifice by the members of the football team.

“Today is a really good day for our football program, and especially for our players and their families. It’s the result of a lot of hard work throughout the conference, including Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson and Gene Smith. We can’t thank them enough for their leadership and being steadfast advocates for us,” said Day.

“We are extremely grateful to the Big Ten’s Return to Competition Task Force, and the work of Dr. Jim Borchers on the medical subcommittee. The expertise and recommendations of the task force will allow the teams to get back on the field with the health, safety and well-being of our players as the No. 1 priority. I want to thank the state of Ohio and Buckeye Nation for the unwavering support that means so much to us. I am thrilled our fans will get a chance to see what I see every day, a team that will represent them on and off the field in the best way possible.” 

Ohio State continues to take a comprehensive approach to the health and safety of student-athletes and staff. This includes:

  • All common areas are cleaned and disinfected at least three times per day
  • Individuals clean respective offices throughout the day
  • Masks are worn indoors and outdoors at all times, except during strenuous exercise or taking part in performance-based activities
  • Weight room and workout equipment is cleaned after each use
  • Training workouts are limited in number, and social distancing is utilized
  • All student-athletes are initially baseline tested for COVID-19; additional weekly testing is dependent on level of activity

“Thank you to our students, faculty and staff for all their hard work to follow the safe and healthy guidelines,” Johnson said. “We are Together As Buckeyes.”