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Ohio State Reveals Plan to Safely Bring Athletes Back

Paul Steinbach

Before the Ohio State football team can possibly return to what may well be a half-filled Horseshoe, student-athletes must return to campus to prepare.

That, for sure, will look vastly different, according to plans outlined by OSU athletic director Gene Smith. Ohio State will welcome student-athletes back June 8 to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, where they will work out in carefully orchestrated shifts. As reported by Sports Illustrated, the weight room in that facility measures 15,000 square feet, but Smith said OSU will allow only 10 players to work out simultaneously, after which the facility will be sanitized before 10 more players can enter. He estimates that will permit only 50 players to work out in any one day.

Smith added that OSU will consult medical opinions on a response if a player tests positive for COVID-19 after working out in its facilities.

As for the safety of fans, Smith appears to be more open to playing games in front of reduced crowds of 50,000 or fewer, or no crowds at all, at Ohio Stadium. He said that models that observe the State of Ohio's recommended six-foot separation radius would cut a typical Saturday crowd in the Horseshoe — capacity 104,994 — to "20,000 to 22,000."

Other schools are gearing up for fall sports' safe return. Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek said Wednesday that the university's weight room and training room will be sanitized for student-athletes' June 1 return, and its venues will be sanitized before, during and after events.

Arkansas personnel are assuming a full-capacity model for events, with special considerations. Yurachek said the athletic department is continuing to work on guidelines for running shuttle buses to football games at Reynolds Razorback Stadium and how fans pass through entry gates, queue for concessions and arrange in the stands. A paperless ticketing system is in the works to mitigate physical contact, and fans likely will be required to wear face masks.

"We have a really good plan that has been put together by our medical team, that includes our athletic trainers, our strength and conditioning coaches, our facilities and maintenance staff," Yurachek told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. "We have worked with the environmental health department here on campus."

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