Ohio State will not pursue independent football schedule in 2020

Joey Kaufman
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day leads the team onto the field prior to the NCAA football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019.

Ohio State will not pursue an independent football schedule for this fall following the Big Ten Conference’s decision on Tuesday to cancel the coming season.

In a text message to The Dispatch, athletic director Gene Smith confirmed the school was focusing on preparations for holding a spring season, which is viewed as an alternative by the conference.

It will mark the first time since 1889 that the Buckeyes will not play any football games in a calendar year.

During an interview on the Big Ten Network earlier Tuesday, Smith expressed some openness toward playing in the spring months, reiterating a message he spelled out to players in a team meeting.

“I told them I’m going to wake up tomorrow with a passion to see if we can figure out a way for them to compete in spring and play the game they love,” Smith said.

The possibility of Big Ten teams playing games outside the conference this fall first picked up steam Monday when Nebraska coach Scott Frost told reporters that the Cornhuskers were “prepared to look for other options” in the event the Big Ten did not sponsor a season this fall.

When asked about Frost’s comments during an interview on ESPN hours later, Ohio State coach Ryan Day did not rule out the possibility, asking for the option to be at least considered as a last resort.

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

Ohio State has been a member of the Big Ten since it first joined the league in 1912, then known as the Western Conference.

It is also unclear whether the Big Ten’s bylaws permit teams to play games outside the conference and continue to pull in its lucrative TV revenue.

For Nebraska, which left the Big 12 to join the Big Ten a decade ago, its leadership did not quash any speculation of playing games outside the conference this fall during statements released Tuesday.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren declined to clarify whether member schools were able to play elsewhere this fall, stressing it was “not the appropriate day” to address the matter.

“I just take those statements as really a point of passion and supporting and representing their universities and their student-athletes,” Warren said.