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Big Ten nixes Ohio State search for options to play fall games

Gene Smith-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith is fully focused on the spring now. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Big Ten nixes Ohio State search for options to play fall games

COLUMBUS — The search for options for Ohio State to play this fall was short-lived.

The Buckeyes didn’t even get a full day to pursue games or scrimmages before the Big Ten stepped in and squashed those plans.

Less than 12 hours after Lettermen Row sources indicated that Ohio State wasn’t giving up hope of scheduling some sort of competitive matchups despite the conference cancelling the fall season and just six hours after coach Ryan Day called it a “fluid situation,” athletic director Gene Smith confirmed in a statement that the league office had again put a stop to their efforts to play on Wednesday.

“Ohio State has continued its communications with the Big Ten Conference office regarding a scenario to still play fall football games, but has now determined that this would not be an allowable opportunity for us to move toward,” Smith said in a statement released by the school. “We are 100-percent focused on supporting the health and safety and academic success of our student-athletes, and on working with the Big Ten to develop a spring plan for our sports as expeditiously as possible.”

Pete Werner-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner had his fall season canceled on Tuesday. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Smith seemed to expect this outcome on Tuesday afternoon when he shot down any suggestions that Ohio State could leave the Big Ten for a year, and he was already turning his attention to a potential spring schedule — which the program would ideally like to start in January.

But with Day continuing to push behind the scenes in an effort to give the Buckeyes any kind of chance to play before then, the decision-makers reached out to gauge what would be possible. And it apparently didn’t take long to get rebuffed by the Big Ten, which is perhaps no surprise given the aggressive way commissioner Kevin Warren responded to similar efforts from Nebraska.

“Not leaving — that’s not realistic,” Smith said after leaving the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Tuesday “We’ve been a member of the Big Ten for a long time, we share the same values as our member institutions. We all know our history and tradition, I don’t need to give you that speech. We’re in the Big Ten, we’re not looking to play someone else outside of our conference, we have a contract that we are obligated to with our television partners, so that’s not happening.

“We’re mentally moving and shifting to the spring as an option.”

The Buckeyes at least explored one last time to make sure that was the only one available. Now Ohio State knows for sure that’s the only path back to the field.

Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.