Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith is one of the most powerful men in his industry. He’s won the Corbett Award from the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, basically the NCAA version of the lifetime achievement Oscar. He sits on the College Football Playoff selection committee. He was on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee. If there’s a power move to be made in college athletics, he’s the guy to do it.
He is also no stranger to controversy and is certainly one to speak his mind, so it bears mentioning when he floats the idea of playing college football this season with fans in the stands.
In a long teleconference with the media today Smith broached a number of subjects, but his mention of a plan where “20,000 to 30,000” fans could be in the stands for games certainly jumps out.
Ohio State AD Gene Smith says he’s confident that a plan can be implemented where 20,000 to 30,000 fans can attend football games in Ohio Stadium.— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) May 20, 2020
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith on a teleconference with reporters now.— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) May 20, 2020
Smith said he is becoming more comfortable with the possibility of playing football games without fans this season, though he is still optimistic that won't need to happen.
But he also seemed to backtrack later, because... reasons??
Gene Smith said he still isn't "100% comfortable" with football games being played this season with the risks of COVID-19. He's getting closer than he was a couple months ago and is hopeful he'll get there, but he's not quite there yet.— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) May 20, 2020
This is all coming ahead of an SEC meeting on Friday which will determine if that league begins to lift restrictions on team activities. Despite all the genuflecting at the altar of AAU status, you can be sure the Big Ten won’t want to be left behind the conference that so far has dominated them on the field this century.
Gene Smith said the Big Ten supports continuing to prohibit organized team activities until June 30, but to allow voluntary workouts beginning June 1.— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) May 20, 2020
If they start allowing players back into practice facilities, even for “voluntary” (lol) workouts, the liability for a positive test now goes back on the university. In loco parentis is real, and it’s an issue for any institution that starts taking back players.
But the thought that tOSU, one of the signature brands of college athletics, thinks they can play football games with fans in The Horseshoe (usual capacity 104,944) as soon as 108 days from now for their opener with Bowling Green is the real news here. We’ll see if this is just a pipe dream or something that could actually happen over the next two weeks.