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Challenging season requires different media protocol for Buckeyes

Justin Fields-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields will be having different press conferences this year. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Challenging season requires different media protocol for Buckeyes

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 media coverage for a Big Ten season that will start in October for the Buckeyes? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

As if it already wasn’t abundantly clear, there will be nothing normal about this challenging season in the midst of a pandemic.

Players are sacrificing personal lives and will be getting tested every day. Coaches have had to completely revamp practice schedules and workouts just to get Ohio State into position to play next month. There will be no fans in the Horseshoe. Even referees are having to adjust with electronic whistles.

So, obviously the media outlets that cover the Buckeyes are going to be impacted as well. And it’s certainly going to create a few unique challenges for Lettermen Row and the rest of our colleagues following Ohio State this season — though not any that can’t be managed.

First of all: Interviews have already resumed with coach Ryan Day, and he’ll return to a normal availability schedule moving forward. And media sessions as a whole will pick back up with a relatively normal training-camp schedule with two different position groups expected to be made available every week leading up to the opener on Oct. 24. The most notable tweak, of course, is that all interviews at this point are scheduled to be done remotely via Zoom.

Ryan Day-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State coach Ryan Day will be conducting weekly press conferences on Zoom. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

(NOTE: That technology has been incredibly useful over the last six months, of course, and the fact that Ohio State is now moving away from conference calls to this video format is a huge bonus. It’s still not the ideal way to interview players or coaches for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that it’s simply not as conversational or quite as improvisational as a normal in-person setting. But the Ohio State sports information department has committed to making as many players available as possible to allow for the kind of detailed coverage this fan base lives for, and Lettermen Row will also continue to stream or post those press conferences like usual whenever it can.)

Second: There are no plans for the media to attend any open practices this fall. In reality, that’s not a huge change from the past, because Ohio State has closed all in-season workouts since at least this reporter arrived to cover the team starting with Urban Meyer’s arrival back in 2012. Typically there would have been at least a handful of dates where outlets could watch the Buckeyes and get a feel for the depth chart, but that process will now be reliant on press conference information and any additional intel that can be mined from behind the scenes.

Third, and most important: Press boxes at the Horseshoe and across the league are going to be socially-distanced — and therefore have dramatically reduced capacity. The same will be true for sideline access for photographers as Ohio State and the Big Ten work to maintain a safe environment for competition, and that is completely understandable. But it will require some creativity and flexibility in the normal game-day coverage, because Lettermen Row is not expecting to have the same three seats it had last season at the Shoe while Birm was snapping pictures from field level. Road credentials for the media are going to be even tougher to come by, in all likelihood. But whatever access Lettermen Row can get, make no mistake that it will make the most of it and continue to find ways to provide the same experience for our audience that Ohio State fans are accustomed to during a typical season.

There is no playbook for anybody involved in this unprecedented situation, so there are sure to be hiccups along the way. But there will still be thorough coverage of these historically-talented Buckeyes, and hopefully that part will at least make it feel somewhat normal along the way.

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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.