Return of Ohio State football gives other fall athletes a lift

Adam Jardy
Coach Brian Maisonneuve's Ohio State men's soccer team likely won't begin its season until February.

The Big Ten’s about-face decision to reinstate football for the fall was met with plenty of cheers from the Ohio State faithful.

Even more came from within the athletic department. Although last Wednesday’s decision to field a football season this fall didn’t extend to the other sports that had been postponed until the spring, it didn’t temper the excitement those teams felt for football.

“It’s great news for the athletic department, for the football team,” said Brian Maisonneuve, who coaches the men’s soccer team at Ohio State. “(Our players) knew football was a possibility and everybody’s excited for the football team and the athletic department, but thinking there’s a possibility to still play, it hasn’t really crept into the guys’ minds.”

On Aug. 11, the Big Ten announced its plans to shut down all fall sports and attempt to play them in the spring, a decision that affected men’s and women’s cross country and soccer as well as field hockey and women’s volleyball, in addition to football.

In announcing football’s return in late October, the Big Ten’s official press release last Wednesday also noted that updates regarding the other fall sports would be “announced shortly.”

Also that day, the NCAA Division I Council announced that all fall sports would hold their championships in the spring. That cemented an understanding that had grown since the shutdown was first announced: The decision would not be revisited for sports besides football.

So when the football news became official, field hockey coach Jarred Martin was prepared to handle the optimistic messages that started to flood his phone.

“I can’t tell you how many text messages I got like, ‘Does that mean field hockey is back yet?’ Well, no,” Martin said Friday. “Nothing really changed for us.”

Pending a final, expected approval from the NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors sometime in the coming weeks, dates for championship games for 2020 fall sports already are being scheduled for the spring of 2021. The men’s College Cup will crown a soccer champion May 17, eight days after field hockey does the same.

Not surprisingly, not all conferences are operating on the same timeline. The Atlantic Coast Conference is playing its field hockey season now, while Big Ten teams playing in the spring will go directly from a regular season into the tournament.

“I actually like the idea of being as close to our NCAA tournament as possible,” Martin said. “We’ve bought ourselves a little bit of time. I’m guessing by the end of this semester we’ll have a really clear plan of what we can do starting up in January when we start classes.”

Having at least some dates on the calendar have gone a long way toward warding off the feeling of training simply for the sake of training among athletes and coaches.

Since returning to campus, Maisonneuve said, his players have attacked strength and conditioning workouts as well as the start of some technical work while realizing they won’t be playing actual games until likely sometime in February.

Martin said the opportunity for team members to get acclimated with one another and begin going over tactics without a quick turnaround for a game will prove to be a benefit for his team. Each team is working through decisions for seniors, some of whom are set to graduate following this semester.

They’re just all going to have to wait a while longer to get final answers, and that’s fine with them.

“Now that a little bit more is coming together with some dates from the NCAA, with a competitive season and what that’s going to look like (and) with football happening, that’s good for a lot of reasons, I feel like there’s some things we can really start building on,” Martin said. “I’m interested to see the goods that can come from this.”

Once we get to the spring, that is.