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Gene Smith said it’s too early to speculate about college football season, will need a return-to-play model first

Ryan Day said they will need about six weeks of preparation before a regular season can begin.

NCAA Football: Ohio State-Urban Meyer Press Conference Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

“We really have to understand that the players did not have spring football...and remember, typically during the summer time, there’s training that occurs. At the end of the day, we need to develop a return to play model for those players that is practice oriented so that we avoid soft tissue injuries...Before we can even think about the season, we need to start thinking about, ‘How do we help our players return to just practice?’”

— Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, via News Radio 610 WTVN

Listen, I want college football to be played in August — hell, I want it to be played in 2020 as much as the next guy. But I’m certainly not going to sit here and pretend like that’s feasible, nor am I going to offer up any certainties or speculations, and neither will Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith.

In an interview with News Radio 610 WTVN on Friday morning, Smith said that not only are they still trying to adjust to their new normal, it’s just simply too early to guess what the fall will bring.

He did however say that, before college football can be played — whether that be in August or next spring — there needs to be some type of return-to-play system for players. These kids haven’t had their spring practices. They won’t endure summer workouts. There’s no way they can just jump into the in-season agenda without consequence.

OSU head football coach Ryan Day agreed. In an interview on ESPN’s “Get Up” on Friday morning, Day said that he believes that teams will likely need “about six weeks” of preparation before the start of the season.

“Whether it’s more or less (than six weeks), I think that’s what we have to work through,” Day said. “What do those six weeks look like? When are we allowed to put pads on? How much time do we need leading up to putting pads on and actually practicing? So I think six weeks is a good starting point to start the conversation and then as time goes on, we need to clean that up.”

Smith’s and Day’s comments come a day after Ohio State president Michael Drake’s, who during an interview with WOSU on Thursday said he could see football taking place this season without fans in attendance. Smith seemed to politely disagree with that take.

“It seems inconsistent to me that we could say it’s unsafe for the fans to be in the stands but it’s safe for the players, to be in that gathering environment,” Smith said. “I don’t know. I haven’t gone down that path, but I think you guys know me, I tend to lean to work with my colleagues in the Big Ten and work with my colleagues nationally. My focus, first and foremost right now, is if we’re going to do something, how do we make sure the players are safe first?”

Not allowing fans to be present will obviously prevent thousands of people from congregating into stands, but what about the over-100 guys on the sidelines/packed into the locker rooms? One of the top keywords in football is literally “huddle.” Doesn’t seem possible to socially distance in one of those.

It’s worth noting that, in that same interview, Drake did say that his first consideration is what’s safe for the players, coaches, and staff, as well as the fans. So, he’s certainly not dismissing players’ health, even though his comments about “football szn” going ahead for people to “enjoy on TV at home” might suggest otherwise.

Are Drake’s comments not the most well-thought-out? Maybe. But they truly pail in comparison to The Worst of The Worst by other CFB personalities.

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy basically wants to sacrifice the players, saying they’re young enough to fight the virus off, so that they can continue to run money through the state of Oklahoma. And that well... that ain’t it.

And then there’s Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney who appears to still be living in Dabo Swinney Land.

Who wants to tell him?

Luckily for Ohio State fans, the powers that be are sounding a little more realistic than others, and are more or less on the same page when it comes to making decisions based on the safety of everyone involved in the operation of a college football game.

“There’s a lot of discussions that have to occur,” Smith said. “A lot of things that have to synchronize. We have to have consistency across the country. We have to be sensitive to all the environments across the country.”

The point Gene and I are trying to hit home here is: No one knows how or when college football is going to happen, but it’s going to look a lot different when it does.