Tailgating and full capacity for Ohio State Football in 2021. Following an odd 2020 football season in which Big Ten stadiums had little to no attendance due to the COVID-19 epidemic, Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith expects full capacity this year. "We expect our stadium to be full," he said. "Our fans are passionate and we think they'll come out in force."
While most other major college football teams were forced to cancel their seasons due to low enrollment at many schools and concerns about spreading coronavirus in crowds, Ohio State played its home games on Saturday afternoons this year. The decision was made in an effort to avoid conflict with the NBA's schedule while also giving players time off if they showed symptoms of COVID-19. Despite the change, Ohio State went 3-3 this year with wins over Michigan, Maryland, and Indiana.
Smith said last month that he expected Ohio State to play in front of a full house this year. He reiterated those comments this week during an interview with the Columbus Dispatch. "I think our stadium will be full this year," he said. "Our fans are very loyal and I think they'll come out in force this year."
The Buckeyes' average home attendance this year was 102,314, which ranked ninth among Division I programs.
The Big Ten encourages fan attendance at athletic events, such as spring football. After conferring with university medical professionals, the conference's athletic directors and the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors reached the decision. Outdoor stadiums in Michigan can hold up to 20% of their capacity...
An outdoor stadium can accommodate more people than a gym or theater because there are no limits on how many can fit into it. Universities make money off of season tickets and other fees so they want as many people as possible at their games.
There have been several high-profile cases of athletes suffering long-term injuries while playing in large crowds for non-stop action. The most famous example is probably Ohio State quarterback John Brockington, who died in 1969 at the age of 26 after he was hit by a car right outside of Wright State University's stadium where he played baseball.
The driver wasn't aware that there was a ball game going on inside the stadium because it was one of those "night games" where the sun goes down early in May.
Before you say it: yes, players sometimes get injured on purpose to stay in the game. They do this by taking direct blows to the head or getting kicked in the leg and then holding their heads up high like nothing happened. Some people think that this behavior is common among college football players but it's actually very rare.
Because of COVID-19, the Ohio State football team was unable to play in front of any fans in 2020. The Big Ten Conference decided not to allow anyone to play in front of a live audience. According to Governor Mike DeWine's COVID briefing this evening, Ohio State will be permitted to play in front of large audiences. It is not clear at this time how many people will be allowed at these events.
In addition to not being able to play in front of a crowd, the coronavirus also prevented the team from traveling to away games. The season opener against Miami (Ohio) was held on campus with no fans in attendance. Without access to competitive games, rumors began to spread that the program was going to lose support from its fan base.
At the time of writing this article, there have been no studies published regarding the impact of the virus on sports leagues or teams. However, given the severity of the disease and the ongoing threat it poses to public health, it is likely that more information will become available in the future. In the meantime, we can look to other factors for evidence about how the virus has affected popular opinion of OSU football.
Fans are already beginning to panic buy tickets for the 2021 season. If the virus had already destroyed support for the program, then it would be reasonable to expect sales to drop off after 2020. Instead, they are increasing which indicates that many fans believe the team will be better next year.
While the Big Ten announced on Tuesday that the fall 2020 college football season will be moved to this spring, the previous decade has been unprecedented. From the addition of three new programs to a shift in the league landscape to the College Football Playoff, the decade of the 2010s was remarkable.
The Big Ten began the 2010 season with 10 teams. Over the next 10 years, the conference would add Maryland and Rutgers — which played their first game last year. It would also see Nebraska leave for the NFL and Wisconsin drop down a division. All told, nine different teams have won the Big Ten title over the past 10 seasons.
Looking forward, there are two clear favorites to win the Big Ten this year: Ohio State and Michigan. Both teams returned almost everyone from a championship-winning squad a year ago and they play in identical cities (Columbus, OH vs. Ann Arbor, MI). While it's easy to pick against the Buckeyes or the Wolverines at this point, it's not wise to count out other contenders such as Wisconsin, Penn State, Iowa, Illinois, or Indiana.