The second-year coach of the Buckeyes said Wednesday that players would return to practice stronger and more closely bonded than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Columbus – Ohio State coach Ryan Day will have one question and maybe a reservation if college football teams are permitted to start the season playing in empty stadiums as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus or COVID-19.
If, for example, 54,000 fans can’t go through the turnstiles when the Buckeyes play Oregon at Autzen Stadium on September 12 for fear of the public’s health, what about the people playing the game in close quarters?
“I think the biggest challenge with that is going to be if it’s not safe for the fans, then how is it safe for the players and coaches and those type of people?” Day said during a teleconference on Wednesday. “Hopefully with testing and all the different things that come up over the next couple months, we’re able to answer those questions. But I certainly think it’s worth talking about and exploring based on the parameters that are set here over the next three to four months.”
He did say that “any football is better than no football.’’
Most of all, Day said the Buckeyes will come back stronger mentally after having gone through the pandemic. He has challenged his players to test their maturity when they work out on their own.
“I think it’s going to make us stronger in that it gives them some personal accountability in not always having a coach bark at them,’’ he said.
There will be more football activity, albeit on line. The NCAA voted Thursday to allow teams to require up to eight hours a week of virtual meetings beginning Monday through May 31. This can include team meetings, film review and other instructional sessions.
Group physical activity is still prohibited.
Day, who will be entering his second season as head coach, said there’s no way football can be played or should be played until campuses are open at least six weeks to the general student population.
What coaches are players are waiting for, he said, is for state governments and the NCAA to lay out the ground rules.
“We’ll do whatever we need to do, and we’ll make it work, whatever they tell us the parameters are,’’ he said. “We’re OK with adapting. We’d obviously love to play the whole season, and expecting to play the whole season, but if that’s what happens, then we’ll figure it out.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced on Thursday that the state would reopen on May 1.
But, DeWine or Amy Acton, Ohio Health Department director, won’t know to what extent the public could begin moving around until that time.
Will face masks be required? Are restaurants and bars going to be open? Will students return to school?
Day is leaving that up to the experts, and said constant communication is the key.
“Certainly, it’s going to come down to the different task forces and committees that have come together and the medical authorities on where we start with this,’’ he said. “And that’s really where it begins. And then from there, we’re going to have to kind of as football coaches give our input and try to figure it all out. The first concern is public health and the student-athletes’ welfare and well being. So we have to start with that.’’
The NCAA and college football leaders, Day said, are “smart people’’ and believes a “great solution’’ will come out of this.
At the same time, he spoke about there being so many unknowns. He said everyone would have to think on his feet if the season is shortened.
Any return to football, Day said, would require teams to have an adequate amount of time to train, especially to minimize injuries. He said various groups think teams can get back up to speed in four, six and eight weeks.
Day said playing games without fans “would be eerie, for sure,’’ but might be feasible. Getting the Buckeyes back together playing the game they were born to play would be uplifting.
“That’s probably the hardest part of all this,’’ Day said. “We don’t get to hang around and be around our team. I keep telling the guys, ‘I miss you guys and I can’t wait to get back together.’’’