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Ohio State athletics to spend $3.5 million on COVID-19 testing, other pandemic costs

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State helmets sit on the ground before their game against Wisconsin in the 2017 Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis. [Kyle Robertson/Dispatch]

Ohio State’s athletic department has budgeted $3.5 million for COVID-19 testing, medical personal protective equipment and other supplies for the current fiscal year, according to a summary document provided to The Dispatch.

The department has been testing athletes, coaches and staff members since it reopened its facilities in June following a shutdown at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Teams have continued to be tested regularly over the following months while on campus for practices and workouts.

The costs are included among the $180.8 million in budgeted operating expenses for the 2021 fiscal year. With the postponement of the Big Ten’s football season, Ohio State has forecasted a $107 million deficit in athletics for the period, which runs through next June.

A school spokesman said the budgeted expenses related to COVID-19 do not include potential costs from the rapid antigen tests provided by the Big Ten through its partnership with Quidel Corporation.

When the Big Ten announced the restart of a fall football season, commissioner Kevin Warren said the conference planned to cover the costs of rapid tests.

“We’re putting our safety protocols and procedures in place,” Warren said, “and we thought it was important that we be responsible for the structure of the agreements for our testing and also for the payments for the testing.”

But the conference covering the costs of testing could impact its profit margins and the annual payouts it distributes to member schools.  

Payouts totaled about $55.6 million for longstanding members in the fiscal year 2019, according to tax records released this summer.

Warren did not specify if the payouts would be affected by the acquisition of rapid tests.  

Daily antigen testing for football teams across the conference began on Wednesday in the leadup to the start of the season on Oct. 24.

Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said last week that 170 people within the program are tested each day, including about 120 players and 50 staff members. The tests are administered in the morning and results are provided within 15 minutes.

Those who test positive are instructed to take a polymerase chain reaction test in order to confirm the results or identify false positives.

“That's why the PCR is in place,” Day said. “But one thing is for sure, if you have everybody that tests negative, for that 24 hours, you know that you have a clean operation. That’s the idea.”

Day did not say if anyone in the OSU program has tested positive for COVID-19 since the daily antigen testing program began; Ohio State has declined to disclose testing results for all varsity athletes.

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman