Ohio State’s 2021 game against Oregon is still on.
Despite the cancellation of last year’s game, which was scheduled to be played at Oregon before both the Big Ten and Pac-12 canceled their non-conference football games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told reporters on Wednesday that the Buckeyes and Ducks will still play each other this fall.
Smith did not specify whether the game will still be played at Ohio Stadium, where it is currently scheduled to be played as Ohio State’s home opener on Sept. 11, and said the two athletic departments are still working through how they will make up for last year’s game. Smith said he hopes those details will be finalized by the third week of March.
“Both of us want to compete, want to play,” Smith said. “Neither of us want to change the game. It would cost us more to change the game. If we don’t play, we gotta buy somebody else in. And so you’re paying whatever we’ll have to pay, and that game probably won’t be as attractive as us playing each other. So our biggest challenge is the return game. We’re working through that right now. We will play this fall. Just gotta work through some details on it.”
Under the terms of the original contract, each school was set to pay the other $300,000 during the year of its respective home game. If a return game at Oregon cannot be scheduled, however, it’s likely Ohio State would need to make a significantly larger payout to Oregon to play at the Shoe or that the home-and-home could be replaced by one neutral-site game, like when the Buckeyes played TCU in 2018.
While both schools would presumably ideally prefer to still play a home-and-home, there’s no clear-cut opening for rescheduling the game at Oregon, as Ohio State already has at least one Power 5 non-conference game scheduled for every season through 2028 while Oregon has at least one lined up for every season through 2030.
Including the Oregon game, Ohio State is currently scheduled to play seven home games in 2021, also including non-conference games against Tulsa and Akron as well as Big Ten games against Maryland, Penn State, Purdue and Michigan State. Smith is not yet making any projections about how many fans will be able to attend games at Ohio Stadium next fall, which will depend on how vaccinations proceed and whether COVID-19 positivity rates continue to fall, though he said he is “optimistic.”
|THU, SEP. 2||MINNESOTA||TCF BANK STADIUM (MINNEAPOLIS, MN)|
|SAT, SEP. 11||OREGON||OHIO STADIUM (COLUMBUS, OH)|
|SAT, SEP. 18||TULSA||OHIO STADIUM (COLUMBUS, OH)|
|SAT, SEP. 25||AKRON||OHIO STADIUM (COLUMBUS, OH)|
|SAT, OCT. 2||RUTGERS||SHI STADIUM (PISCATAWAY, NJ)|
|SAT, OCT. 9||MARYLAND||OHIO STADIUM (COLUMBUS, OH)|
|SAT, OCT. 23||INDIANA||MEMORIAL STADIUM (BLOOMINGTON, IN)|
|SAT, OCT. 30||PENN STATE||OHIO STADIUM (COLUMBUS, OH)|
|SAT, NOV. 6||NEBRASKA||MEMORIAL STADIUM (LINCOLN, NE)|
|SAT, NOV. 13||PURDUE||OHIO STADIUM (COLUMBUS, OH)|
|SAT, NOV. 20||MICHIGAN STATE||OHIO STADIUM (COLUMBUS, OH)|
|SAT, NOV. 27||MICHIGAN||MICHIGAN STADIUM (ANN ARBOR, MI)|
As for the non-conference home games that were canceled last season against Bowling Green and Buffalo, Smith said Ohio State will not have to pay those schools for the cancellations – Ohio State was contracted to pay Bowling Green $1.2 million and Buffalo $1.8 million – because the MAC also played a conference-only schedule last season. Smith said Ohio State is “working to try and schedule them down the road.”