When Ohio State football players returned to campus for voluntary workouts last week following the coronavirus shutdown, they were required to sign an acknowledgment of risk waiver before their participation.


The two-page document, obtained by The Dispatch through a public records request, outlines the health risks involved with workouts and other athletic activities, and calls for the athletes to follow strict health and safety protocols implemented by the school.


Referred to as a so-called Buckeye Pledge, it asks players to "pledge to take responsibility for my own health and help stop the spread of the COVID-19."



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The document goes on to warn athletes that "although the university is following the coronavirus guidelines issued by the CDC and other experts to reduce the spread of infection, I can never be completely shielded from all risk of illness caused by COVID-19 or other infections."


Incoming freshmen who had not turned 18 needed to have a parent or legal guardian sign the waiver.


In an interview with ESPN later Sunday, athletic director Gene Smith said the waiver was intended more for educational purposes than liability.


"We don't look at that as a legal document," Smith said. "It's a Buckeye pledge. Allow us to help you so that if we face a situation, our trainers, our strength coaches, our coaches or any athletic administrator sees a student-athlete not wearing a mask or not social distancing, we can say, 'Hey, you made a commitment. You signed a pledge. Your parents signed a pledge. Your parents are a part of this.’"


Football players were first permitted to use the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and Schumaker Complex on Monday. Men’s and women’s basketball players are able to resume workouts at the Schottenstein Center next week.


The form mentions that players who do not adhere to the pledge could be prohibited from participating in athletic activities or using on-campus facilities. It would not affect their scholarship status, according to the document.


Since the NCAA lifted its moratorium on voluntary workouts on campus this month, schools have reopened their facilities to athletes and are looking to hold organized football team activities as soon as next month after a recommendation issued by the Division I football oversight committee for an expanded preseason schedule.


As a condition for players’ return to campus, some schools have asked them to sign similar documents in which they agree to follow health guidance.


Indiana put out a COVID-19 participant expectations and commitment pledge for football players to sign before they return next week.


The protocols that Ohio State athletes have been required to follow include submitting to coronavirus testing, reporting exposure to COVID-19, disclosing symptoms of the virus, including a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, and remaining home if they feel sick.


The school also asks players to "participate fully and honestly" with its athletic training staff for contact tracing.


OSU said it relied on guidance from the CDC and the Ohio Department of Health, among other health agencies, in establishing its protocols.


An initial round of COVID-19 testing was required before Buckeyes football players were first permitted to use the facilities last week. If a player tests positive, they are required to self-isolate for at least 14 days.


Ohio State has declined to release data from the tests, citing medical privacy concerns.


jkaufman@dispatch.com


@joeyrkaufman