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 latest pause in team activities due to positive tests? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
— ❌eg Carty Little (@Megmeg32) March 9, 2021
Ohio State never expected to be completely back to normal this spring.
Clearly the Buckeyes were right in that regard. But they also weren’t exactly anticipating that another shutdown of team activities would again be deemed a necessity, which athletic director Gene Smith and team physician Dr. Jim Borchers did on Tuesday morning.
In the short term, this probably isn’t a huge deal for Ohio State. This is generally the time of year when the roster gets a brief break during spring break anyway. It’s not a backbreaker for development because one week away from the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in March is a typical part of the schedule — although it’s fair to point out that the schedule of winter workouts and Mat Drills was a bit different to begin with this year.
There are some bigger-picture issues, though, that could be a factor for the Buckeyes moving forward. That starts with the continued perception that the Big Ten is taking its health and safety precautions to potentially unnecessary extremes. And while it’s hard to argue against schools or conferences wanting to protect athletes, it’s also tough to square the Big Ten approach with what’s happening in the SEC, ACC or Big 12 where no shutdowns are popping up, spring games are opening for fans and conversations about full stadiums in the fall are getting louder.
Only time will tell who truly handled a complex situation best, although the way the Big Ten botched just about every part of the process last fall doesn’t do it any favors. And in the long run, one week of workouts might not be that critical — but the move on Tuesday at Ohio State is a reminder that nothing now is guaranteed for the rest of camp or with the spring game in the Horseshoe.
“Our decisions on the welfare of our student-athletes, staff members and those coming to our campus, and our determination as to when we will reopen and resume activities, will continue to be guided by our medical staff,” Smith said. “We have been successful in safely hosting nearly 100 athletic events on campus this year with limited disruptions, but this pandemic is not over.
“We will continue to stress the safety measures of wearing masks, consistent and thorough hand washing and physical distancing, and we will remain vigilant in those areas.”
The fact that Ohio State was able to stage so many games and practices dating back to October combined with emerging data that has shown athletes who test positive to be at little risk of health complications certainly suggests that it could have proceeded with workouts as planned heading into the expected start of practice next week. On the flip side, the Buckeyes also can’t really be blamed for wanting to play it safe right now at a moment that isn’t exactly the most urgent on the calendar coming off all the grueling sacrifices of a year ago.
There’s never been a clear-cut answer, and the one Ohio State chose this week isn’t likely to impact it significantly either way.
But it’s yet another Big Ten decision that won’t go unnoticed compared to the competition. And the sooner everybody in the country is actually on a level playing field somehow, that’s also in the best interest of those athletes.
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