Big Ten to allow fan attendance at spring sporting events

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State family members watch from the stands next to cardboard cutouts of fans during a football game against Nebraska on Oct. 24 at Ohio Stadium.

The Big Ten will allow schools to host spectators at sporting events this spring in accordance with local health guidelines and regulations, easing league-wide restrictions that had been in place for the past six months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision announced Wednesday was made by the conference’s council of presidents and chancellors and its athletic directors, in consultation with university medical experts.

Taking effect immediately, it opens the door for Ohio State to invite fans to its spring football game at Ohio Stadium on April 17, as well as other contests that are to be held on campus in the coming months.

The Buckeyes have home games scheduled in multiple varsity sports this week, including women’s soccer on Thursday, men's tennis and women's lacrosse on Friday, and baseball and softball home series this weekend.

But an athletic department statement said no changes to its attendance policies are expected to be in place in time for the weekend’s events.

Ohio State first plans to consult with Columbus Public Health to “formalize appropriate attendance figures, mapping and social distancing within our athletics venues and facilities.”

"Once we have determined the attendance in our venues, beyond the current protocols of only family members of student-athletes and coaches, we will share that information," the statement said.

Professional, college and high school sports teams in Ohio are allowed to host up to 25% capacity crowds at indoor venues and 30% capacity while outdoors following a revised public health order signed by Gov. Mike DeWine earlier this month.

The general public has not been allowed to attend regular-season Big Ten games since the onset of the pandemic last March. Only family members and close friends of players and coaches had been allowed at games.

The Big Ten cited varying local regulations for schools in first prohibiting fan attendance at games when it restarted the football season in October. The 14 schools in the league span 11 separate states.