COLUMBUS — The Ohio State football season is officially over this fall, and the program won’t be looking for other options outside of the Big Ten.
Just one day after making bold, public declarations that the Buckeyes would pursue any path forward to playing this year, the reality of the dead-end situation and lack of viable options sunk in for the nation’s second-ranked team.
Contractual obligations, conference membership, the global pandemic and the Big Ten decision to postpone football until some point next year all stand as hurdles for athletic director Gene Smith. And rather than fight those likely losing battles, Smith is instead turning his focus to preparing for the spring.
“Not leaving — that’s not realistic,” Smith said after leaving the Woody Hayes Athletic Center shortly after 5 p.m. “We’ve been a member of the Big Ten for a long time, we share the same values as our member institutions. We all know our history and tradition, I don’t need to give you that speech. We’re in the Big Ten, we’re not looking to play someone else outside of our conference, we have a contract that we are obligated to with our television partners, so that’s not happening.
“We’re mentally moving and shifting to the spring as an option.”
There are dozens of unanswered questions that go into that next phase for the Buckeyes, and multiple sources inside the Woody confirmed that the Big Ten hasn’t provided any concrete answers about how to proceed with workouts, practices or even gearing up for a hypothetical spring campaign.
Certainly there is ample time to address that now that the most difficult decision has been made. But the frustration was plainly evident for Smith and the brokenhearted Buckeyes who left the facility following a team meeting in the afternoon where the news was delivered.
“I was hopeful that we would get to a point where we can delay until Sept. 26 or Oct. 1 and give us a chance to continue to work our protocols and give our kids a chance and learn,” Smith said. “We may have still gotten to a place on Aug. 20 or somewhere in there where we would be where we are now. So, I’m disappointed we had to make this decision as early as we did, but I respect our medical people, I respect the guidance of our leadership and we’ll move forward. We’ll try to deal with it from here.
“Up until today, [spring] was not an option for me relative to my mindset. But [coach Ryan Day] and I just spent some time talking about the possibilities and I’m embracing it. I’m trying to come up with a strategy for the spring, and I think it’s more realistic for me today than it was yesterday — or even this morning. I want to give our kids a chance to play. That’s my battle. I lost this battle, but now I have another opportunity to have another battle. That’s how I’m looking at it. I don’t quit, I’m not quitting.”
For now, the Big Ten put a halt to the efforts to play football this year. And Ohio State’s potentially historic season just had the plug pulled.