Ohio State is asking its athletes to take the “Buckeye Pledge” to help stop the spread of COVID-19 before returning to on-campus athletic activities.
Ohio State athletes (and their parent/guardian if under 18) have been asked to sign a waiver and agree to follow numerous health and safety guidelines as they return to campus this summer, as outlined in a document obtained by Eleven Warriors through a public records request on Monday.
“All members of Buckeye Nation have an important role to play in keeping our fellow students and the Ohio State community safe by doing our part to stop the spread of COVID-19,” the first paragraph of the Buckeye Acknowledgment and Pledge states. “As a member of Buckeye Nation, I know that I must take steps to stay well in order to protect others and promote a safe return to campus for all Buckeyes. Because of this, I pledge to take responsibility for my own health and help stop the spread of the COVID-19.
“Ohio State’s highest priority is the safety of its students, faculty, staff, and visitors. I know that by engaging in campus activities, including attending classes, pursuing my education, living on campus, eating in the dining halls, attending activities, participating in sports and recreation, I may be exposed to COVID-19 and other infections. I also understand that despite all reasonable efforts by the university, I can still contract COVID-19 and other infections. In order to reduce my risk, I agree to be an active participant in maintaining my own health, wellbeing and safety, as well as the safety of others, by following all the guidelines and expectations outlined by the university.”
The guidelines athletes are expected to follow, which the waiver states may be modified as “more information is gathered and known,” include:
- Agreeing to testing for COVID-19 and potential subsequent self-quarantining if identified as a contact of anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19
- If testing positive for COVID-19, self-quarantining in a designated location for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms, until symptoms have resolved and testing negative for COVID-19
- Timely reporting of any known or potential exposures to COVID-19 to the athletic training staff
- Monitoring for the following symptoms: A fever of 100.4°F or higher, respiratory symptoms such as dry cough or shortness of breath, sore throat, headache, body aches, chills and loss of taste or smell
- Contacting an athletic trainer and following the medical staff’s instructions – which may include being tested for COVID-19 and self-quarantining while the test results are pending – if developing symptoms
- Staying at home if feeling sick
- Getting a flu vaccination
- Participating fully and honestly in contract tracing with the athletic training staff to determine potential exposures to COVID-19
- Wearing a mask or the appropriate PPE in all public spaces
- Practicing physical distancing as much as possible
- Frequently washing and/or sanitizing hands
- Keeping personal space, shared common space and belongings clean
The waiver also asks athletes to acknowledge that the risk of contracting COVID-19 cannot be completely eliminated even if both the athletes and the university are following all health and safety precautions outlined in the document and as recommended by the CDC and other experts.
“I understand COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus and it is possible to develop and contract the COVID-19 disease, even if I follow all of the safety precautions above and those recommended by the CDC, local health department, and others,” the waiver reads. “I understand that although the university is following the coronavirus guidelines issued by the CDC and other experts to reduce the spread of infection, I can never be completely shielded from all risk of illness caused by COVID-19 or other infections.”
According to the document, any failure to comply with the guidelines listed within the Buckeye Pledge “may lead to immediate removal of athletic participation privileges and/or the inability to use Athletics facilities,” but it will not affect the athlete's scholarship status.
Every Ohio State athlete has signed the pledge, according to an Ohio State spokesperson, and no Ohio State athlete has publicly stated any plans not to participate in athletics this year due to COVID-19. Ohio State football players returned to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for voluntary workouts last Monday, and men's and women's basketball players are set to resume voluntary workouts at the Schottenstein Center this week.
Ohio State offensive linemen Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis, the only returning players who have been made available to the media since spring practices were cut short due to the pandemic, both said they would be willing to do anything required – including signing a waiver – to be able to play this season.
“I would do anything really to play this season,” Myers said on May 14. “I don’t know what I would do without football to be honest with you. But with that would come sacrifices, and personally I’m also willing to make those sacrifices.”
Several legal experts, however, expressed concerns about the waiver after it was initially reported on by Joey Kaufman of the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday.
If I were advising the college football players from @OhioStateFB, they would not, under any circumstance, be signing this waiver. And, you wonder why the #NCAA is so opposed to athletes having lawyers and agents! https://t.co/CjsSpNyjcC— Marc Edelman (@MarcEdelman) June 14, 2020
Smart for universities to require athletes to sign COVID waivers. However the waivers may not withstand legal challenge.— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) June 14, 2020
Biggest issue = theres no bargaining process. We arent talking about people who can freely negotiate terms of employment. Whats the alternative to signing? https://t.co/oUQ1wKM2hb
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told ESPN's Heather Dinich that the waiver is intended more for educational purposes than liability.
“We don't look at that as a legal document. It's a Buckeye pledge,” Smith told ESPN. “Allow us to help you so that if we face a situation, our trainers, our strength coaches, our coaches or any athletic administrator sees a student-athlete not wearing a mask or not social distancing, we can say, 'Hey, you made a commitment. You signed a pledge. Your parents signed a pledge. Your parents are a part of this.'”
An Ohio State spokesperson described the pledge “as an educational component for student-athletes and their parents as part of our return to workouts protocols.”
“It is an acknowledgement by our student-athletes of their responsibility to keep themselves, fellow students and the Ohio State community safe during this crisis,” Ohio State associate athletics director of communications Jerry Emig said in a statement.
Smith told ESPN the idea for the Buckeye Pledge came from Fred Glass, the athletic director at Indiana, which is also asking its athletes sign a “participant expectations and commitment pledge,” according to Zach Osterman of the Indianapolis Star.
In addition to testing returning athletes for COVID-19, other precautions being taken by Ohio State as athletes return to workouts include limiting athletes to workout groups of nine or fewer, daily temperature and symptom checks upon arrival at athletic facilities and use of face coverings when appropriate. All surfaces within athletic facilities are being cleaned every 1-2 hours with EPA-registered cleaners and disinfectants, and each facility is being cleaned thoroughly each evening, according to a release by Ohio State prior to the resumption of on-campus workouts earlier this month.
Ohio State has not released any results from the COVID-19 tests it has administered to athletes.