Nothing about this fall’s Big Ten football season will be typical. That, of course, includes Ohio State’s four home games.
The Buckeyes plan to play host to Nebraska (Saturday), Rutgers (Nov. 7), Indiana (Nov. 21) and Michigan (Dec. 12) for matchups held in Ohio Stadium. The atmosphere in Columbus, though, won’t be anything like it usually is in Ohio’s capital city when the national powerhouse kicks off football games. Comparatively, those four dates over the next two months will feature a significant reduction in fans allowed in the stadium, along with various other newly implemented policies to minimize the spread of and risk posed by COVID-19.
Here’s what you should know about game days this fall:
Under normal circumstances, the Buckeyes would welcome more than 100,000 spectators into the Horseshoe on Saturday. Instead, they’ll have fewer than 2,000 people in the stands.
The capacity for Ohio Stadium this season will “be right at 1,600.” That number includes everybody in the stadium, including players, coaches, staff members, guests, concession workers, ushers, police officers and more.
No fans will be allowed this season other than family members of players and coaches. A total of 656 guests of Ohio State players and coaches will attend games at Ohio Stadium, and the Buckeyes will welcome in up to 400 guests of visiting players and coaches.
In place of fans, Ohio State began selling cardboard cutouts of fans a week and a half ago. In a press release on Monday, the athletic department said it plans to have “several thousand” cutouts of fans in various sections of A Deck, which is the lower bowl in the stadium. Cutouts are being sold for between $25 and $75.
The smaller-than-usual attendance impacts the media, too, who typically populate the press box. Instead of upwards of 230 media members, the press box will max out at 40 people this year. Eleven Warriors, it should be noted, has a seat and will be in attendance.
Protocols for attendees
The 1,600 people who attend Ohio State’s home games will have their own set of rules.
Masks or facial coverings are required and should be “worn at all times in all areas of Ohio Stadium,” per the athletic department. All guests sitting to watch home games in fans must also socially distance themselves from each other. They will be sitting in 10 sections in A Deck, with six sections designated for the 656 home team guests and four sections set up for the 400 visiting team guests.
Concessions – with what Ohio State referred to as a “limited menu” – will be sold to those in attendance. Spectators have the option of purchasing concessions through Ohio State’s app to minimize contact and decrease the length of lines.
All of those who enter the stadium to work during games – including media members and game day employees – will undergo temperature checks and a symptoms check in order to be allowed in. Guests of players and coaches will not get temperature checks and symptom checks.
No band and cheerleaders, still some noise
Ohio State’s heralded Marching Band will not perform in the stadium this fall. Instead, its weekly performances will be shown on the band’s social media accounts. Cheerleaders, the spirit squad and Brutus Buckeye – the mascot – will not be in attendance, either. Those performances will be held elsewhere.
However, at least some noise will be blasted into the stadium.
The Big Ten will allow each team within the conference to play what Ohio State described as “murmur audio tracks” during games. The conference provided the audio and has implemented provisions for teams to follow:
- Audio during games: 70 decibels
- Audio during celebration moments: A maximum of 90 decibels
Nothing going on outside the stadium
Away from Ohio Stadium, Ohio State doesn’t plan to have anything else going on.
It will not host the usual Skull Session at St. John Arena, and tailgating won’t be allowed in parking lots surrounding the campus of “anywhere on Ohio State’s campus.” The athletic department, in a press release, said campus police officers “will be patrolling lots and will ask potential tailgaters to leave the premises.”
Ohio State’s football team will not stay in the Blackwell Inn, either, meaning it won’t go through its walk from the hotel to the Skull Session to the stadium. It will take a bus to the stadium.
Minimizing exposure to participants
Ohio State has enacted strict regulations for those allowed on the field during games. It wants what president Kristina Johnson once described as a “clean playing field.”
The only people allowed at field level will be those in “Tier I or Tier II for Covid-19 testing” or people who are part of the network television camera and production crews. Those in Tier I get tested six days per week and those in Tier II are tested twice a week on Friday and Saturday morning. The on-field network television employees will also be tested on Friday and Saturday morning for COVID-19.
Everybody else in the stadium will be banned from being on the field. The usual on-field honoring of former Ohio State players or current Buckeyes teams will not take place this fall.
Photographers and videographers will shoot photos and video from AA Deck and the top of A deck. Only 22 of them will be credentialed to work home Ohio State games.
Alternate broadcast available
All Buckeyes games, of course, will be nationally televised. But the athletic department has created its own online-only broadcast called “Scarlet Saturday” that will be live-streamed during games.
The Ohio State Marching Band’s performances will be shown on the live stream.