Compensation for Ohio State opponents varied wildly in COVID era, contracts show

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Iowa center Luka Garza (55) makes a free throw during a NCAA Big Ten Conference men's basketball game against Ohio State, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Ohio State paid non-conference opponents everything from $45,000 in cash to nothing more than the cost of food, transportation and lodging while putting together a men’s basketball non-conference schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to documents obtained by The Dispatch through a public records request.

In a variety of signed contracts reflecting the overall chaos that was putting together a basketball schedule during a pandemic, the Buckeyes had contracts for five games that were played, one that was not and a scrapped appearance in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The contracts for home games against Morehead State, Cleveland State, UMass Lowell and Illinois State were all signed during the fall, and each included language specifically citing that games could be canceled due to COVID-19 protocols, nullifying Ohio State’s financial responsibilities. How much that entailed varied from team to team.

Cleveland State, which played the Buckeyes on December 13, was paid $45,000 for the game but the Buckeyes did not cover any costs for lodging, transportation or food. Illinois State, which played the Buckeyes in the November 25 season opener as part of a multi-team event that Ohio State assembled after withdrawing from the Crossover Classic that replaced the Battle 4 Atlantis, was not paid for the game. Instead, the Redbirds were given a $7,500 stipend for food and Ohio State paid for transportation as well as 16 hotel rooms for four nights.

UMass Lowell, which also participated in the event and played Illinois State on November 28 and then the Buckeyes one day later, received $20,000. Ohio State also provided 16 hotel rooms for two nights, bus transportation to the university and a $5,000 meal stipend.

Morehead State, which played at Ohio State on December 2, received $45,000 and 15 hotel rooms for two nights.

Ohio State had received $25,000 from the Battle 4 Atlantis as the first payment installment for agreeing to participate, and the university was allowed to keep that money provided it “expresses its bona fide intent to participate in a future Battle 4 Atlantis.”

When that event was canceled and a similar tournament scheduled for Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Ohio State was initially scheduled to participate and signed a contract on October 15. Teams that would withdraw from the Crossroads Classic would be subject to a $100,000 fee to cover damages, but allowances were made for multiple reasons including “prohibitive governmental regulation.” At the time of Ohio State’s decision to withdraw, South Dakota was a state on Ohio’s “no-travel” list.

The Buckeyes lost one non-conference game when Alabama A&M traveled to Columbus but had at least one positive COVID-19 test and had to return home. The Bulldogs had a signed contract dating back to last April that would have paid them $90,000 and made no specific mention of COVID but stipulated that it could be terminated without penalty due to “unforeseen catastrophes or disasters beyond the control of either party.”

Ohio State’s updated contracts also spelled out COVID testing protocols requiring all Tier 1 personnel on visiting teams to test at least one within 48 hours of leaving for the game. Upon arrival at least 24 hours prior to tip, all personnel would be subjected to Big Ten rapid point-of-care antigen testing as well as a second such test between 2-6 hours prior to the scheduled start time.

Unless an opponent is testing at least six times per week, one positive test within 14 days via PCR testing or the two Big Ten rapid point-of-care antigen tests would cancel the game and void the contract.

Also, in an update to the previous contract to participate in the CBS Sports Classic, Ohio State was paid $225,000 to play UCLA at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

The Buckeyes had previously announced a non-conference schedule last spring that would have paid six opponents a total of $560,000 to come to Ohio State for games.