Family members no longer permitted at Ohio State games because of COVID spike

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Family members of Ohio State football players cheer for the playing of "Hang On Sloopy" during the Buckeyes' game against Rutgers on Nov. 7.

Family members of Ohio State players and coaches will no longer be able to attend any OSU sporting event until at least the football team's season-finale against Michigan, the Ohio State athletic department announced Wednesday.

That comes after the Columbus Department of Health issued a stay-at-home advisory effective for 28 days beginning at 6 p.m. Friday because of increasing cases of COVID-19. That means relatives will not be able to attend Saturday’s home football game against No. 9 Indiana.

The athletic department said it will work with state and local health officials on protocols and adjustments for hosting events during the pandemic. The decision to not permit relatives at football games will be re-evaluated before the Michigan game on Dec. 12.

Family members will not be allowed to attend Ohio State men’s and women’s basketball and hockey games through the rest of 2020.

“The health and safety of student-athletes, coaches, spectators and event staff is our top priority,” OSU athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. “We had hoped to continue to allow family members of our student-athletes and coaching staffs to be able to attend games, but circumstances around this pandemic are prompting us to adjust, just as it has throughout the past eight months.

“We appreciate everyone’s understanding and we will continue to do what is in the best interests of everyone involved.”

Football players had been permitted to have up to four relatives attend games at Ohio Stadium.

Pablo Fields, the father of Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, was planning to attend Saturday’s game, as he had the season-opener against Nebraska.

“I’m upset I don’t get to see him,” Fields said, “but then, (now) I don’t have to travel through the airports. If they play and do well, then I’ll be satisfied. If they don’t get to play, then the depression will set in.”

Ohio State’s game last week at Maryland was canceled because of an outbreak among the Terrapins.

Justin Fields is eligible for the NFL draft next spring and is projected to be among the top picks if he turns pro as expected.

“It’s hitting home, like ‘Man, did I watch his last college game live or what?’ ” Pablo Fields said. “I don’t know what the future holds.”

He tried to look at the bright side. His daughter Jessica plays middle-school AAU basketball and he’ll be able to watch her play this weekend while watching Ohio State on TV.

Though relatives had been permitted to attend games, they were not allowed to be in close proximity to their sons before or after games. Pablo Fields said he took a selfie with Justin from about 20 yards away after the Nebraska game.

“That’s about the closest I got to him,” Fields said. “I’m not going to be the one to give him ’rona and then someone says, ‘I saw his dad hugging and kissing him and then Justin Fields has ’rona.’ We weren’t going to be the culprits of that.”

Pablo Fields said he was was looking forward to the Indiana game, especially after looking at the weather forecast.

“I wish it was going to be cold because then I could say at least I got out of sitting in the cold weather. But it’s supposed to be nice on Saturday,” he said.

The decision to not allow relatives will result in the lowest attendance in Ohio Stadium history starting Saturday. A total of 1,344 people were in the Horseshoe for the Nebraska game and 1,275 for Rutgers.