COLUMBUS, Ohio — What’s happening with Ohio State football after positive COVID-19 tests in the program forced the Buckeyes to cancel Saturday’s game at Illinois? Here are questions and answers gleaned from a video news conference with athletic director Gene Smith, football coach Ryan Day and team doctor Jim Borchers on Saturday afternoon.
Q: Why was the game canceled?
A: Ohio State made it clear the cancellation wasn’t mandated by Big Ten rules. As Smith said, “Could we have played? Yes. Was it the right thing to play? No.”
The Buckeyes said they were concerned about having a virus-free plane ride and a virus-free playing field at Illinois. The Buckeyes didn’t hit the threshold to require a cancellation by Big Ten rules, but they made the choice to call it off after more positive tests in the program Friday afternoon. Until the round of testing Friday afternoon, they were still planning to play.
Q: How many people with Ohio State football have COVID-19?
A: The number of people tested as part of the full program is 170, so to cross the 7.5 percent positivity threshold that Ohio State said it has passed, at 13 least people with the program have tested positive. We don’t know exactly how that breaks down between players, coaches and staffers.
Q: How is the health of those who have tested positive?
A: Borchers said all are isolated and “are doing very well.” None have required significant medical treatment. He said the expectation is that all will recover and continue to do well from a health standpoint.
Q: How widespread is the outbreak?
A: Borchers said they haven’t identified any pattern to the positive cases. He said there isn’t a particular position group that has been identified as a cluster. That would indicate several parts of the program have been affected.
Q: When will Ohio State be able to practice again?
A: The Buckeyes paused all activities after the latest positive tests Friday, and Smith was very focused on the day-to-day progress and unwilling to predict the future. The Buckeyes will continue to test, and if they don’t have more positive tests, it seems they could resume in the next few days.
“I wish we could say Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, but there’s too much uncertainty,” Smith said.
Q: How much preparation does Ohio State need in order to play Michigan State next Saturday?
A: Day said the Buckeyes could be ready to play with a practice on Thursday and a walk-thru on Friday. So even a pause that continued through Wednesday could theoretically allow them to play. The team can continue video meetings while in-person activities are paused.
Q: So what are the chances of the Buckeyes playing Saturday?
A: Borchers said they are very aware that the two previous Big Ten teams to call off games — Wisconsin and Maryland — wound up missing two games. Smith said the only focus is the health and safety of players, and the idea to “possibly” give the Buckeyes a chance to play next week. But the Buckeyes made it very clear they see a chance to get the outbreak under control in time to play in a week.
Q: Why did the Buckeyes have this outbreak now?
A: No one pointed to a particular incident that led to this. Ohio State said it basically had no cases since mid-August, though. Smith said the Buckeyes still believe they have avoided spread in their football building, but both Smith and Borchers mentioned the rising number of cases in Franklin County.
Q: Could the the Big Ten rule about players sitting out at least 21 days after a positive test change?
A: Smith said he understood that question, but he hadn’t even considered it. He said that could be a conversation later. As it stands, Borchers said players testing positive require a 10-day isolation period, and then a period of seven to 10 days for a transition back to playing, which includes getting back in shape and undergoing cardiac testing. The Michigan game is in two weeks, so it would seem difficult for any Big Ten rule change that would allow currently positive Buckeyes to play by then. But other conferences do have shorter requirements for players sitting out, of between 10 and 14 days. So you can imagine this might be discussed at some point.
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