Even though fans are beginning to return to sporting events around Ohio, Ohio State will not be selling tickets for this year’s spring game.
While Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday that pro sports teams who play outdoors could host fans at up to 30% of stadium capacity beginning in April, Ohio State does not yet know whether it will be able to host fans at Ohio Stadium for the spring game.
If fans are allowed at the spring game, though, Smith said Ohio State will look for a way to distribute tickets to essential workers who have been on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with family members and guests of Ohio State players and coaches.
“As of right now, we’re just on hold for the spring game,” Smith said. “If we’re allowed to have fans, we will not have a ticketed event. It will not be one where we’ll charge. My hope is that we’ll have an opportunity to develop a strategy to recognize our front line people; our nurses, our doctors, our custodians, our bus drivers and all those people who have made so many sacrifices for us for a long time now. That would be my hope, is that we could come up with a strategy to recognize them and invite them to the spring game and of course, obviously the parents of our student-athletes. That’s kind of right now my thinking, but we’ve got a ways to go before we get to that point.”
Ohio State has not formally announced when the spring game will be played, though Ryan Day said earlier this month that the tentative plan is to play the game on April 17. The Buckeyes did not play a spring game in 2020 due to COVID-19.
As for the fall football season, Smith said Ohio State has made no determinations about how many fans could be permitted to attend games at the Shoe in 2021. While Ohio State typically starts the season ticket renewal process at the beginning of March, associate athletic director of ticketing Brett Scarbrough said that process likely will not begin before the end of April this year, as Ohio State waits to see how the vaccine rollout proceeds forward and whether COVID-19 positivity rates continue to decrease before making any decisions about what game days at Ohio Stadium might look like this fall.
“I’m like everybody else, I’m curious, I don’t know,” Smith said. “I’m hopeful that what we’re experiencing now from a low positivity rate and number of people in the hospitals and all those types of things, I’m hopeful that those things continue on. And the vaccine and herd immunity and all those things, I’m hopeful that those things continue, and that we have some new normal, whatever that will be, in the fall.
“My assumption is we’ll still have to do a number of different things around certain protocols, like wear masks and things of that nature, but I can’t begin to share what I think capacity allowance will be. I was really pleased to hear our governor say that his goal is to hopefully provide 30% capacity after April 1 for arenas and things of that nature. So I’m optimistic, but I was optimistic early last year.”
Smith said there will also be no changes to the Big Ten’s current fan policy before the end of the basketball season, which means the men’s basketball Buckeyes’ final two home games against Iowa and Illinois will be played without members of the general public in attendance, just as all of their home games have been this year.
Like Chris Holtmann last week, though, Smith expressed disappointment that fans could not be at the Schottenstein Center for Ohio State’s game against Michigan on Sunday.
“Can you imagine what Sunday would have been like?” Smith said. “That would have been off the chain, and so would the Iowa game and of course the Illinois game, but unfortunately, no.”