If Ohio State plays football in the months ahead, it will not include star cornerback Shaun Wade.
Considered a possible first-round selection in next year’s NFL draft, Wade announced Monday that he will leave the program in order to turn professional, citing the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season that was postponed last month by the Big Ten.
"I was being patient because I want to play at the end of the day," he said in a telephone interview, "but I had to do what’s best for me."
Tired of waiting for a resolution from the Big Ten over a possible restart, Wade became the second Buckeyes player in recent days to opt out of the season, following in the footsteps of right guard Wyatt Davis, who made the same announcement Friday. Both were team captains.
Wade, also a preseason All-American, informed coaches and teammates of his decision before publicizing the departure in messages shared on social media.
Wade said that when he spoke with coach Ryan Day and defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs, they were unable to provide much of a time frame for when a season might be held or even when a decision would be reached.
"They’re frustrated right now because they don’t have clarity," Wade said. "They don’t have clarity with the parents, either. I definitely trust them, and they did everything they could. They just have no clarity. They didn't know.
"If y'all can't have clarity with our coaches, how can I trust y'all, the Big Ten?"
Wade was left largely to follow media reports that trickled out of meetings between university presidents and chancellors over the weekend.
A vote over a restart from the Big Ten’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors had been reported to be possible as soon as Sunday. It never happened, though. Was one going to be annnounced Monday? Wade didn’t know that either, and it had already been 34 days since the conference first voted to call off fall sports until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"It’s just really hard," he said. "I was being really patient. Like I was telling a lot of people, time doesn’t wait on no man. Time is just ticking and ticking every day."
In leaving Ohio State, Wade said he will remain with his parents in Jacksonville, Florida, and work out with a trainer at least five days a week. He expects to relocate to a training facility early next year to prepare for the NFL’s scouting combine and the private workouts that are held ahead of the draft in late April.
Despite his declaration, Wade said he has not signed with an agent, a step that could allow him to revisit his decision in the coming days and return to Ohio State if there were to be dramatic steps toward a season from the Big Ten.
"I definitely would think about it," Wade said. "But I haven’t given it thought right now. My mind is set where it is."
His father, Randy, had been among the most vocal parents of players lobbying the conference to reconsider its postponement of fall football and provide families with greater transparency into the decision-making process.
He organized a demonstration last month near the Big Ten's headquarters in suburban Chicago, followed by a similar protest outside Ohio Stadium eight days later.
Shaun Wade said his dad’s efforts were separate from his own deliberations.
"He was trying to push it for the Big Ten and not just for me, because he loves kids," Wade said. "That is what motivates him. He wants us to play and do great in life."
Eight months ago, Wade considered entering the 2020 draft, but opted to remain in school.
By returning for what was to be his fourth season with the Buckeyes, he planned to switch positions in the secondary, moving from slot corner to one of the outside corner spots vacated by Damon Arnette and Jeff Okudah.
Wade’s departure will leave a significant void if the team is able to return to play in the months ahead. He was the sole returning starter in the secondary.
At the start of preseason training camp in August, even after the pandemic had put the fall season in significant jeopardy, Wade said he had no second thoughts about returning.
He accomplished one goal, graduating in the summer with a degree in sports industry. But another ambition faded.
Without a season in line for this fall, the Buckeyes no longer appeared to be in contention for a national championship, a prize Wade was particularly eyeing after he had been ejected in the Buckeyes’ College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Clemson last December due to a much-scrutinized targeting penalty.
He was left unable to avenge the defeat in the absence of a reversal from the Big Ten, adding to the sting from the season’s uncertain fate.
"We have a great team this year, and with the Big Ten canceling, it hurt everybody, from the coaches to the players," Wade said. "It just hurt everybody."