Ohio State AD Gene Smith: Playing games in stadiums without fans is still unsafe

Ryan Young
·Writer
·3 min read

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, many in the college football world have started to question what the upcoming season this fall will look like.

To be fair, there are still plenty of variables in play and several months left before the season is supposed to start. Nobody knows for sure what the sports world will look like by then.

While some have floated the idea of playing college sporting events this fall in stadiums without fans present, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said on Friday that he doesn’t understand how that would be safe.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

“I struggle with that concept,” Smith said, via ESPN. “When I first heard that, I said, ‘OK, that could work.’ But I figured if we don’t have fans in the stands, we’ve determined it’s not safe for them in a gathering environment. So why would it be safe for the players?”

Smith isn’t alone in this idea. Several prominent coaches, including UCLA’s Chip Kelly and Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin don’t think playing without fans present is safe, and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Yahoo Sports this month that there won’t be any college football if students aren’t allowed to return to campus. After all, college football players are students first.

“Either we’ve made it through this and it’s safe for people to be around or it’s not,” Kiffin said on The Paul Finebaum Show on Friday. Obviously we shouldn’t do anything until it’s completely safe.

“I don’t know how all of the sudden you’re gonna say you can start playing football games with no fans and that’s safe, but it’s not safe for fans. So I think that’s a waste of time.”

There were nearly 500,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Friday night, according to The New York Times. Without widespread testing, which is currently not available, or a vaccine or treatment, which isn’t expected to be available for several months at best, it’s hard to imagine the sports world getting back to normal again anytime soon.

A lot can change between now and football season. But until there is a national decision on the matter — the NCAA established an internal coronavirus playing and practice seasons working group to study the issue on Friday — Smith isn’t going to make any decisions for Ohio State athletics.

There’s simply no point.

“We’re not going to rush this,” Smith said, via ESPN. “We’ve got a major societal issue. Football’s important, I know that.

“But at the end of the day, we’ve got people dying.”

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