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Ohio State AD: We could have 50,000 fans 'if guidelines are relaxed'

Yardbarker logo Yardbarker 5/20/2020 Zac Wassink, Yardbarker
Gene Smith wearing a suit and tie: Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith remains optimistic about having football fans in the stands in Columbus. © Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith remains optimistic about having football fans in the stands in Columbus.

The same day that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh appeared on ESPN's "Get Up" and declared he'd rather play inside empty stadiums than forego the 2020 college football season, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told reporters he's not giving up hope that more than merely a quarter of fans could watch the Buckeyes play in-person this fall.

According to ESPN's Heather Dinich, Smith explained that social-distancing models could allow for around 20,000-22,000 spectators to attend Ohio State home games if a 2020 college football season is played amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

If, however, guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were "relaxed" over the next several months, Smith said those numbers could rise to 40,000-50,000.  Ohio Stadium has a capacity of more than 102,000.

According to Dinich, Smith added: "We're fortunate, with 100,000 seats in the stadium, so could we implement the current CDC guidelines, state guidelines around physical distancing, mask requirements and all those types of things in an outdoor environment and have obviously significantly less fans than we are used to? I think it's possible. 

"I just feel like we have the talent and skill and space capacity to provide an opportunity for a certain number of fans to have access to our particular stadium. Of course that wouldn't be true across the country because of capacity. But I think we can get there."

On Wednesday afternoon, Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reported the NCAA approved college football players, and men's and women's basketball players, to voluntarily return to campuses between June 1 and June 30, but only if allowed by local government policies and school guidelines. 

Many universities around the country currently intend to welcome students, including fall and spring athletes, to campuses for fall terms, but the uncontrolled virus outbreak could change situations in certain regions of the country. 

If, for example, it was deemed that a second coronavirus wave had struck Columbus, Ohio, and/or surrounding areas, the OSU campus could temporarily shut down for a second time this year. 

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