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Buckeyes going rogue for season fun to think about, not realistic

Garrett Wilson-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson and the Buckeyes are still practicing. (Courtesy/Ohio State Dept. of Athletics)

Question Of The Day

Buckeyes going rogue for season fun to think about, not realistic

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and the possibility of changing conferences? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Ohio State in the SEC would be a television ratings bonanza.

The Buckeyes traveling to Texas or Oklahoma for a one-time run at the Big 12 title would be wildly fascinating.

Piecing together a schedule with a few other Big Ten rogues and supplementing it with Notre Dame and Clemson would provide major opportunities for Ohio State to showcase its elite talent.

Hell, the Buckeyes playing any games at all would be worthy of a celebration — yes, even against Rutgers.

But there are several significant hurdles in the fantasy of the program heading off on its own in the event of the Big Ten canceling the season in the midst of pandemic-fueled concerns. At the top of the list: Broadcast rights, presidential approval and the long-term damage that could come to the Big Ten.

Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football-Ryan Day

Ohio State has won the last three Big Ten championships. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

The list of potential complications is actually longer than that. But those are the primary factors that would keep Ohio State or another like-minded program such as Nebraska from actually finding other options after vowing to do so Monday when the prospect of cancellation or postponement reached a fever pitch. Buckeyes coach Ryan Day is obviously, undoubtedly going to pursue every avenue he can for his players, and daydreaming about him taking his loaded roster into the SEC on a weekly basis has been a welcome distraction while multiple sources have indicated to Lettermen Row that playing games the season remains a decided underdog.

“I think we need to look at every option,” Day said on ESPN on Monday. “If that’s the only option at the time, then we need to explore and see if it’s something we could possibly do. If it is and that’s what is best for our kids, then certainly we need to look at that and do it.

“In the meantime, there are a lot of things that are going to come up along the way that we can keep getting better at. With everything moving so fast, I just think a little bit of time can go a long way.”

Perhaps the oddest development of this entire process has been the Big Ten’s apparent rush to a decision less than a week after releasing a schedule, which itself failed to really buy much time before kickoff — and actually moved Ohio State’s opener up to Sept. 3. There was still flexibility to move games around, but that grand unveiling came after both the SEC and Pac-12 had put together slates that didn’t start until the last Saturday in September, giving conferences an extra month to gather information, evaluate risk and potentially still play close to a full season.

So, if the Big Ten pulls the plug and other conferences continue forward with their plan, would there be room for the Buckeyes? It seems unlikely that the Big 12 or ACC wouldn’t be open to the idea given how much financial and competitive value Ohio State brings to the table. That doesn’t necessarily solve the administration concern, though that appeared to soften a bit with Lettermen Row sources indicated that incoming president Kristina Johnson now currently favors postponement over cancellation. But the contractual issues with Ohio State’s grant of rights would remain, and while those could potentially be negotiated, doing so would come at the expense of the relationships with the rest of the Big Ten — a damaging blow to a league that has built itself into the most profitable in college football.

Without a doubt, it’s way more fun to envision the Buckeyes building a one-time schedule and having a fling with another conference. But the reality is they’re married to the Big Ten, and that’s not going to change.

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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.