Big Ten Schools Can Host Fans at Spring Sports Events, Including Spring Football Games, Per Local Health Guidelines and Restrictions

By Dan Hope on March 24, 2021 at 12:00 pm
Ohio Stadium

Big Ten schools can now host fans at sporting events again.

The Big Ten announced Wednesday that “attendance policies for all remaining 2020-21 Big Ten Conference regular season competitions will follow local health guidelines and restrictions.” That policy, which will allow Big Ten schools to host fans at spring sporting events if their state and local governments allow them to do so, “is effective immediately and includes spring football events.”

Ohio State, however, has not yet determined its policies for fans returning to sporting events on its campus this spring. In a statement released by the athletic department on Wednesday afternoon, Ohio State said it “will work internally and with Columbus Public Health to formalize appropriate attendance figures, mapping and social distancing within our athletics venues and facilities.”

“Once we have determined the attendance in our venues, beyond the current protocols of only family members of student-athletes and coaches, we will share that information,” Ohio State's statement says. “We do not anticipate any changes in our attendance policies before this weekend’s athletic events on campus.”

Ongoing sports at which Ohio State could potentially host fans later this spring include baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, track and field and golf.

The Big Ten's policy change comes after the conference allowed a limited number of fans to attend the Big Ten men's and women's basketball tournaments earlier this month.

“The goal is to transition from a conference-wide approach to local decision-making in consultation with public health departments and university medical experts,” the Big Ten said in its announcement.

After fall and winter sports seasons in which members of the general public were not able to attend sporting events at Ohio State or any other Big Ten school, the door is now open for fans to attend games this spring.

While Ohio State has not yet determined its attendance policies for the remainder of the year, the state of Ohio is currently allowing 30 percent capacity at outdoor sporting events and 25 percent capacity at indoor events.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith previously said in February that Ohio State would not sell tickets for the spring football game, which is set to be played on April 17, but that Ohio State would look 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, who have already been able to attend on-campus sporting events – if it was able to host fans.

“If we’re allowed to have fans, we will not have a ticketed event. It will not be one where we’ll charge,” Smith said then. “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.”

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