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Don’t cancel football season, Ohio State coach Ryan Day pleads

Bill Rabinowitz
brabinow@dispatch.com
With rumors swirling that the 2020 Big Ten football season would be canceled, Ohio State coach Ryan Day on Monday retweeted a message from his quarterback Justin Fields: "We want to play."

Ohio State football coach Ryan Day considers himself an advocate for his players.

With the college season seemingly on life support, Day said it would be premature to cancel the season.

“I would say we cannot cancel the season right now,” Day said on Monday on ESPN2. “We have to at the very (most) postpone it and allow us a little bit of time to keep reevaluating everything that's going on.”

Because the Big Ten released its conference-only schedule just last week, Day said he was surprised by the reports that conference presidents and chancellors were on the verge of calling off the season because of health concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The schedule was designed to have some flexibility,” Day said, “and our job is to create the safest environment possible for these young men and then present it to them and allow the players and their parents and their coaches to then decide if it's safe enough.”

Nebraska coach Scott Frost said on Monday that he’d be willing to play even if the Big Ten cancels its season. Day also seems willing to do that.

“We need to look at every option,” he said, “and if that's the only option at the time, we need to explore it and see if that's something that we can possibly do. Because if it is, and that's what's best for our kids, then certainly we need to look at that and do it.”

Day said he understands that before a season can be played, several issues related to the coronavirus need to be resolved. How the virus affects younger people is still not clear. Testing and contact tracing are still being refined.

“By pushing back the season, we can still figure out some of those issues,” Day said. “And whether we can play the season or not, that's up to the players and their parents or their coaches, in my opinion.

“But we have to figure out what the safest environment possible is, and then present it to them. For them not to at least get presented exactly what those things are, I think would be (a mistake).”

Asked if he’d had conversations with athletic director Gene Smith and incoming OSU president Kristina Johnson, Day said he’s had constant dialogue with them. Johnson favors delaying but not canceling the season, a university source told The Dispatch.

“It's every day,” he said. “It's multiple phone calls. But for this to happen so abruptly after last week, it did catch me off guard.”

A presidents meeting is not scheduled for Monday night, but the league’s athletic directors are expected to talk.

Training camp started last week for Ohio State, which is scheduled to play Illinois on Sept. 3. Day said that his team has rebounded from some tough days when the Woody Hayes Athletic Center was closed and players had to train on their own.

He said they looked and acted ragged when they first returned.

“I was worried about some of their mental health,” Day said. “Now that they've been able to come and practice together and get back together on the field, they look healthy again. They look great, and they really want a chance to play.

“They want to have a voice. They want to choose. That's all the information they've been giving me. So I think it's my job as the head coach to advocate for them.”

Day said he believes players are safer working under the strict protocol they’ve committed to than they would be if the season is canceled and they’d lack the same incentive. On Big Ten coaches calls, Day added, all the coaches say they want to have a season.

“If we need to take a deep breath, let's take a deep breath,” Day said. “But let's do everything we can (to preserve the season). We owe it to these kids to exhaust every single option we possibly can, and then we go from there. But (canceling) right now, to me, would be abrupt.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch