In an interview with WOSU's All Sides with Ann Fisher on Thursday, Ohio State University president Michael Drake said he expects the 2020 college football season to be impacted in some fashion due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Whatever it is next year, it won’t be the same as it was last year,” Drake said Thursday, as first reported by Joey Kaufman of the Columbus Dispatch. “One scenario has it being changed in smallish ways – security and hygiene kinds of ways – that’s one scenario, that’s one edge. On the other edge, it’s not safe to do it all. In between, one could imagine different kinds of contests that could take place and could those happen in a way that was engaging and safe? I’m sure that that could be created.”
Drake said Ohio State is preparing for several scenarios, and did not rule out the possibility that games could be held without fans or with reduced attendance. Drake, who also serves as the chairman of the NCAA's Board of Governors, said he is having daily conversations with administrators about potential impacts to the college football season this fall.
“We’re not assuming, necessarily, that the season is going to start and be like last season was,” Drake said. “That’s not at all a given. We’re not also taking that there won’t be a season. Something between those two wide error bars is where we’re looking for planning.
“The excitement of the enterprise doesn’t depend entirely on a stadium full of people,” Drake added. “That’s one aspect of it ... those things are really special, but there are aspects of the game that you and I and others enjoy at home on TV.”
As of now, it's still too early to say how exactly the COVID-19 outbreak will affect college football season. It remains possible that the season could proceed forward as scheduled, with or without fans, or that the season could be shortened, moved back or canceled altogether.
ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted Thursday that there is a “strong conviction” among people he has talked to within college football this week that there will be a 2020 college football season, even if the schedule needs to be adjusted.
Speaking to people in and around college football this week, there is strong conviction there will be college football this season. Uncertainty about when - multiple scenarios being debated - but they sound certain there still will be college football this season.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 9, 2020
Drake, who was set to retire as Ohio State's president at the end of June but said Thursday that timeline could change because of the current situation, expects the next month or two to provide more clarity on whether starting the college football season in September, and with fans, will be realistic.
“There will be a couple things we have to learn before we know much,” Drake said. “One, it’ll have to be safe for people to come together to have stadiums full of people. We don’t know when that will be. If the football season was supposed to start in July, we’d say you can’t do that. We’re not going to be a place in July that that would be something we could offer safely. After that – August, September – may be different.”
Ultimately, Drake's goal and Ohio State's goal are to make the best possible decisions to hopefully enable college football season to move forward but most importantly, to act in the best interest of everyone who are a part of those football games.
“There are a range of things that could happen, and this is uncharted territory for us, and just know we’re thinking about it every day,” Drake said. “Our first consideration is what’s safe for our fans, for our players, for our coaches, for our staff. That’s the first consideration. And then what can we do moving forward, and I would say to people, the whole enterprise is considering this day-by-day. We’re doing all we can.”
Ohio State's 2020 football season is currently set to begin on Sept. 5 with a home game at Ohio Stadium against Bowling Green.