Gene Smith Discusses Football, Crowd Sizes And More

Ohio State Director of Athletics Gene Smith spent about 50 minutes Wednesday talking with reporters about a variety of topics. Most of the call dealt with scenarios for the college football season in general and the Buckeye season in particular. The COVID-19 pandemic halted college athletics two months ago but there are positive signs that sports could be making a gradual comeback. Smith held the call just hours before the NCAA Division I council approved the resumption of voluntary athletic activities for football and men's and women's basketball beginning June 1. Ohio State will allow athletes back on June 8. It was a through and informative call with Smith, who talked about football scheduling scenarios, the possibility of partial crowds in Ohio Stadium and more. Here's some of the top headlines.

**On the possibility of partial crowds this fall: "Could we implement the current CDC guidelines, state guidelines around physical distancing, mask requirements and all those type of things in an outdoor environment and have significantly less fans than what we're used to? I think it's possible. I just feel like we have the talent and skill and the space capacity to provide an opportunity to a certain number of fans to have access to our particular stadium." Smith was discussing crowd sizes of around 20,000 but later on Twitter indicated it could be more than that.

**If a partial crowd plan was implemented, Smith was asked how Ohio State would determine who would get in from game to game: "We do have a diversity of constituency throughout our stadium so we'd have to make sure we look at each individual group---faculty, staff, students, donors, Varsity O, parents of athletes, media---all those different constituencies, we'd have to look at those and come up with strategies within those groups."

**Smith was asked about scheduling scenarios and whether current 12-game regular season schedules will have to be adjusted: "The perfect scenario, obviously, is that we have a national solution, where there's some consistency. For example, do we just play conference games and then what is that number? You would hope that there's a national consistency in that and that it ties into your post-season in some form or fashion and the selection criteria for post-season chances and accommodates that national solution. That is the best scenario."

**Smith talked more about the possibility that college football this season will be limited to only conference games: "It would be easier for us to make sure that we have the safest environment for our student athletes if we just competed against Big 10 schools. We're familiar with locker rooms, we're familiar with the hotels we're going to, we're familiar with the travel operations we have to employ, so those are easier but can we come up with a national solution where we have standards and protocols that everyone operates and implements wherever we go? I think it can be done but it's murky and messy right now."

**Smith was asked when conferences around the country need to make final decisions on what the college football schedule will look like: "We need to not rush this and I know everyone is anxious to do that but we need the opportunity for our medical experts to continue to collect data and see how our human behavior responds in the re-opening environment around the country. We need to allow that to cascade over time but I think somewhere in early July we need to have clarity in what we're doing."

There were many more interesting nuggets from Smith's teleconference. If you're interested in checking it out, you can hear all of it by going to the Ohio State website by clicking here.