Ohio State will limit capacity for football games at Ohio Stadium this season to 20%, and that’s if any spectators are permitted at all, athletic director Gene Smith told The Dispatch on Tuesday.
If some fans are permitted, tailgating will be banned, concessions will be limited and spectators must wear face coverings.
If fans are permitted, students will be among them, the university announced. Last year, 21,715 season student tickets were sold.
An announcement about the reduced capacity was emailed to season-ticket holders. Season-ticket holders are given the option of opting out of their 2020 ticket commitment without longevity or eligibility penalty. Those who opt out for 2020 are being encouraged to convert the payment into a charitable donation to help offset the scholarship costs to athletes. The deadline for opting in is Aug. 3.
Those who still want to attend games who’ve purchased 10 or fewer season tickets will retain a maximum of two season tickets. Those purchasing between 11 and 20 will retain a maximum of four season tickets. Those who’ve purchased more than 20 will retain a maximum of eight.
The university said it reserves the right to refund orders if necessary.
The school has sold 44,320 season tickets to donors, faculty members and the general public, a renewal rate of 87%, according to figures obtained by The Dispatch through an open-records request.
Smith said in May during a teleconference with reporters that capacity would likely be limited to roughly 20,000 to 25,000 spectators before amending that in a tweet later that capacity could be as much as double that.
Ohio Stadium’s capacity is 104,944. Twenty percent capacity would be 20,989.
In a more recent call, Smith was more pessimistic about a higher capacity.
“Based upon where we are, I think we're going to end up with the CDC requirements of 6 feet,” Smith said on July 9. “So that takes our stadium capacity down significantly, and we'll begin to work on that. That hasn't been a priority at this point in time, but we'll get to that and take the advice of our medical people.
“But when you just watch the behavior, and you watch the fact that we're spiking, and you watch our governor's fighting to help us help ourselves, we're not in a good place. So I would have a hard time doing something different than the CDC guidelines if we're able to have fans in the stands.
“Two months ago, I was optimistic and cautiously optimistic, but I lost that. So if we have fans in the stands, we'll use CDC guidelines and we just have to figure out what those numbers are, but it's a lot less than I thought."
Openers in August?
With much speculation that the football season will be delayed, the NCAA on Monday gave teams a “blanket waiver” option to start the season on Aug. 29 during so-called Week Zero of the season. That would give programs an extra week to play games in case the COVID-19 pandemic would cause postponements later.
Smith told The Dispatch that could be an option for Ohio State. The Big Ten has decided to play a conference-only schedule this year. On the original schedule, Ohio State’s first conference game is Sept. 26 against Rutgers, but schedules are now in flux because of the pandemic.
Smith said that no potential league opponent has been identified if the Aug. 29 opener becomes a reality.
“Everything is speculation at this point,” Smith said.