Ohio State entertained playing as independent last season amid COVID-19 cancellation

·2 min read

You always had a feeling there was more to the story.

When the Big Ten made the decision to postpone/cancel the football season last year, it was met with controversy (queue in Captain Obvious). Ohio State led the push to play in many, many ways, and now we are finding out a little more about what happened behind the scenes between athletic director Gene Smith, head coach Ryan Day and university president Kristina Johnson when everything went down.

Ultimately, Ohio State got on board and behind the Big Ten Conference’s decision, but it still pushed for a reassessment of what could be done, resulting in a delayed and abbreviated season.

Through a public records request, Eleven Warriors obtained emails and texts that were passed around in-between the OSU brass, and one of the most interesting nuggets was Ohio State’s exploration of playing as an independent for the 2021 season.

According to the records obtained, Johnson texted Smith asking about alternatives, and drastic ones – “Anyway to go independent?” wrote Johnson. It was seemingly a question of the ability to play without permission and outside of the Big Ten. Smith then texted back that he was “trying to understand our contracts and if we can play independent this year.” He followed up with “Nebraska is trying too and gone public with it.”

What would be really interesting is to have records of conversations between OSU leadership and Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. It’s clear that somewhere along the line, Warren got Ohio State to stand down and move toward a plan for a spring season.

We all know Ohio State remained diplomatic but pressed to play and how that all played out. Still, many wondered if the flagship bearer of the Big Ten would throw its weight around or not. It appears as though that was contemplated, but other diplomatic means were discovered.

It sure would have been interesting to see what an independent schedule would have looked like and how one could have been put together so quickly. It also would have been intriguing to see how the relationship between Ohio State and the Big Ten played out had events gone a different direction.

Here’s hoping 2021 is much more normal.

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