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Ohio State Community Excited For Return Of Big Ten Football

Ohio State Marching Band and Alumni Marching Band Members perform Script Ohio at an Ohio State football game.
Thomas Bradley
Ohio State Marching Band and Alumni Marching Band Members perform Script Ohio at an Ohio State football game.

Ohio State leaders and Buckeye fans alike are welcoming the decision by the Big Ten Conference to start the football season in late October.

The Big Ten presidents voted unanimously to begin the football season the weekend of October 23-24. Wednesday's announcement reversed an August decision that would have postponed the season until January at the earliest, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren says it’s been a complicated year.

“We all have to realize that this is a fluid situation, and we always wanted to make sure that we put the health and safety of our student-athletes at the forefront of all our decisions,” Warren says.

Each team will play an eight-game schedule as well as an additional game the week of the Big Ten Championship game on December 19.

Buckeye fans like Bryan Freshour look forward to being able to keep up with the team.

“I’m definitely super excited to see the Buckeyes back on the field,” Freshour says. “Glad everyone gets to experience some sort of normalcy in these weird times.”

As excited as he is, health precautions being taken by conference won’t let fans like Freshour in the stadium. Players and coaches will also have to undergo daily antigen testing to screen for COVID-19.

Ohio State team doctor Jim Borchers helped chair the Big Ten medical subcommittee, and said daily testing was important factor to resume the season.

“Our ability to test consistently and uniformly amongst the conference and provide, that was really important,” Borchers explains. “And I think we’ve been very comfortable with the idea that we’ll be able to provide daily, rapid testing.”

Ohio State head football coach Ryan Day was a vocal opponent to the Big Ten’s decision to postpone the season. He says being able to start playing again will lift players’ spirits.

“It’s different when you know you have a season,” Day says. “You know, being right at body-weight, making sure that you’re taking care of all your stuff recovery-wise, making sure all the little things are checked off is different than kind of just going out there and practicing.”

Day has argued that the move to postpone could have taken a large toll on the professional prospects of many Ohio State players. He says his players are ready to go back onto the field.

“We’re gonna be ready to play on the 24th,” Day says. “The ramp up to that, in the 20 hours and putting on pads, has been well thought out. So we’ll be ready to go.”

In addition to daily testing, the 14 Big Ten institutions will establish a registry with players’ cardiac data in an effort to examine the effects on COVID-19-positive students. Teams with a 5% or higher positivity rate will have to stop playing, as will teams in an area where the overall population has a positivity rate of 7.5% or higher.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith says returning to play is a victory for the program and the university at large.

“I feel confident that if every school embraces the protocols and if every school can, frankly, with all due respect, do what our student-athletes have done and our football team has done, we should have a chance to have a clean, competitive field each Saturday,” Smith says.

The Big Ten is expected to announce the conference schedule later this week. 

Columbus Health commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said in a statement that the community and players' behavior will be critical to the plan's success.

"With a return date at the end of October, Big 10 Football has nearly six weeks to plan and prepare for a safe return to play for all athletes, coaches, parents and fans," Roberts said. "The behavior of the players and our community is critical to this plan. We all must continue to wear a mask, social distance, stay home when we are sick, and wash our hands so that we can see the Buckeyes back on the field in action again."

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.