Ohio Stadium won't require fans' proof of vaccination, but masks are needed for restrooms
Ohio State will not require fans attending home football games this season to provide proof of a full COVID-19 vaccination or recent negative test.
The university is requiring masks in indoor spaces at Ohio Stadium, including restrooms, luxury suites and the press box.
Athletic director Gene Smith said Tuesday that school officials looked into the possibility of a policy requiring proof of vaccination for admission about a month ago before dropping the idea.
“We’re leaving it up to our fans to be safe and be responsible,” Smith said.
In the past few weeks, a handful of higher education institutions have announced vaccination mandates or a requirement for a negative test for those under the age of 12. Six in Power Five conferences include Boston College, Louisiana State, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State.
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The timing for some of those universities requiring the vaccination proof came in the aftermath of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granting full approval to Pfizer’s vaccine.
But none of the colleges are among the Buckeyes’ fellow members in the Big Ten or in Ohio, a point raised by Smith.
“At the end of the day, we have to let people make a choice,” Smith said. “There’s an assumption of risk here. The reality is people need to be careful. I would hope that if you’re unvaccinated, you will wear a mask. And if you’re uncomfortable being outdoors, you wear a mask.
“You go to grocery stores, you go get gas at the gas station, you go to the movie theaters, people are moving around in our society. So how do you move around safely? You have to figure that out for yourself. Hopefully you do that and be conscious of other people.”
The indoor mask requirement for fans at Ohio Stadium also includes Skull Sessions, the pregame pep rallies with the team and marching band held around two and a half hours before game time at nearby St. John Arena. Thousands of fans fill the indoor venue.
Are masks required at Ohio Stadium?
Masks are not required while in the stands of the stadium, concourse level or entry gates.
As coronavirus cases began rising across Ohio due to the highly contagious delta variant and less than half the state's population being fully vaccinated, the university last month instituted an indoor mask mandate regardless of people’s vaccination status.
Unvaccinated people are required to wear masks outdoors when they cannot maintain social distance from others.
This is the first season since 2019 in which spectators are permitted to attend Buckeyes games. Only families of players were allowed last fall due to the pandemic. No capacity restrictions are in place ahead of seven home games this season, allowing Ohio State to seat as many as 104,944 people.
School officials expect at least 90,000 people to be in attendance for Saturday’s home opener against Oregon with about 10,000 tickets remaining four days ahead of kickoff, according to Brett Scarbrough, Ohio State's associate athletic director for ticketing and premium seating.
A handful of new attendance policies will be in place this season, including mobile-only ticketing and cashless operations for concessions and merchandise.
Student tickets were previously mobile-only in 2019, serving as sort of a trial run for stadium operations.
“Students are very adaptive," Scarbrough said, "and they're very used to using a smartphone and staring at it all day. So we knew that wouldn't be a hard transition for them, and it was a great way for us to kind of take a dive into taking one segment of the fan base and making it all mobile, and (then seeing) what did we learn from that and how can we tweak it make it better for future rollouts?"
For fans interested in purchasing paper tickets as commemorative items, Scarbrough said the school planned to “make an announcement soon about the option.”