Gene Smith has his eyes on the future.
About 20 minutes after Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren released an open letter to the public to clarify that the postponement of the 2020 fall sports season will "not be revisited," Smith took his message directly to the public, too.
The Ohio State athletic director wrote a lengthy message on Wednesday evening to say he and president Kristina M. Johnson are "actively planning" on how to play all fall sports – including football – in the winter or spring. He said he views the postponement as a "temporary delay" rather than a cancellation.
"Dr. Johnson has directed us to prepare for the possibility of bringing at least some of our fall sports back to practice and competition by the end of the year," Smith wrote.
Here is Smith's full open letter:
On behalf of The Ohio State University and President-elect Kristina M. Johnson, I want to share our plans for getting our student-athletes back to competition as soon as possible.
We thank our student-athletes, coaches, physicians, athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, facility and equipment staff, and all support staff who worked tirelessly — particularly during the months of June and July — to help create an environment for us to train and practice.
We thank our student-athletes for their response to our request to follow the protocols that were put in place to contribute to their safety. Because of their commitment to adhere to the protocols, we felt comfortable continuing to practice. The leadership from within our teams has been remarkable.
We thank all of the parents who were instrumental in helping us encourage their daughters and sons to respond to our protocol request, giving us advice and feedback along the way.
We thank our fans for their passion and support. This has been a very difficult time for Buckeye Nation, and we want you all to know that we hear your voices and we share your passion. We want to play the game. We will have our student-athletes back to competition as soon as possible.
I want to thank Dr. Johnson for her unwavering support. She has been 100% aligned with Coach Day and me as we have moved through the decision process.
We benefit greatly from her keen insights and understanding of intercollegiate athletics as an administrator and a former student athlete.
The university has implemented robust health-and-safety measures, including physical distancing, face mask and hygiene requirements throughout our campuses and classrooms, testing and contact tracing protocols, wellness resources, and more.
We can all help our student-athletes get back to competition as soon as possible by doing our part: No social gatherings of more than 10 people, wearing our masks, washing our hands and keeping at least 6 feet apart.
Together as Buckeyes, we can do this. It will require all of our students, faculty and staff doing their parts, along with the broader community, to stay safe and healthy and fight the spread of the virus. We are optimistic that Buckeyes will do what we always do, step up, band together and get the job done.
The Ohio State University is confident that we have the safety protocols and rigorous safeguards in place for our student-athletes to practice and return to competition immediately.
While a decision has been made by the presidents of the Big Ten Conference to postpone the fall season, we view this as a temporary delay, and Dr. Johnson has directed us to prepare for the possibility of bringing at least some of our fall sports back to practice and competition by the end of the year. We are actively planning for the winter and spring seasons for all sports, including the return of football.
As an athletics director at a Big Ten institution, I will always be respectful of our conference as it provides an outstanding platform for our student-athletes to pursue the championship experience. The health and safety of all our students, coaches and support staff is our highest priority. The conference has established the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force to develop plans for winter and spring competition models. I want to thank Dr. Johnson for her participation on this task force.
We are focused on creating an environment for our student-athletes to continue to have a quality educational experience at Ohio State this fall. All services will continue to be available, including academic support, strength and conditioning training, sports psychology assistance and skill instruction, to name a few.
We are hopeful our medical experts will continue to learn more about COVID-19 and its effects, our society at large will respond to the requests to implement measures/protocols that contribute to a safe and healthy environment for all, and our research scientists will be successful in their quest to develop a vaccine.
We thank Buckeyes everywhere for their unwavering support.
No spring or winter football specifics have been put forth by the Big Ten yet. However, it's now clearer than any point in the past eight days since the cancellation that Warren, Smith, Johnson and the rest of the conference are moving past the fall and putting all of their focus on how to play the fall seasons in early 2021.
Ryan Day has expressed interest in a Big Ten football schedule that begins on the first week of January, and Purdue coach Jeff Brohm publicly proposed a slate of games beginning in late February. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday that the Big Ten is aiming for a season that begins in January.
"As an athletics director at a Big Ten institution, I will always be respectful of our conference as it provides an outstanding platform for our student-athletes to pursue the championship experience," Smith said in his letter. "The health and safety of all our students, coaches and support staff is our highest priority. The conference has established the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force to develop plans for winter and spring competition models. I want to thank Dr. Johnson for her participation on this task force."