The first game of the NFL preseason, which also serves as the kickoff to football season in Ohio, has been canceled.
The 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, which was scheduled to be played between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers on Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio, has been canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Cowboys and Steelers will now play in the 2021 Hall of Fame Game, scheduled for Aug. 5 next year.
The Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony for the class of 2020 has also been postponed. That class will be honored alongside the class of 2021 as part of a multi-day celebration next year, the Hall of Fame announced Thursday.
The cancellation comes just over a week after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said it was “highly unlikely” those events would be allowed to be held with fans in attendance this year.
"As much as I hate to say this, because we've all been looking forward to that and I know how much it means to the Canton area and the Stark County area and really across the country, it's a great great event that we've been looking forward to, [but] having a crowd that size is highly unlikely," DeWine said last week. "Certainly, it could not occur today. It would be very dangerous to do it today.”
Given that, it certainly appears that significant strides will need to be made over the next month for Ohio State to be on track to be play its season opener as scheduled, on Sept. 5 against Bowling Green, in front of fans at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said during an interview on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel this week that he is hopeful social-distancing guidelines will be relaxed to the point that 40,000 to 50,000 fans can attend games at Ohio Stadium this fall. As of now, however, DeWine has not yet given the green-light for contact sports to play competitive games in front of spectators, though several professional golf tournaments have been approved to be played with fans, including the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio from July 16-19.
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said Tuesday on HBO that the Big Ten is planning to start this fall's football season on time, “but there’s so many parts, this is a fluid situation.” The NFL told teams on Thursday that its teams should plan on an on-time start to training camps next month.