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Ohio State students should make up the majority of the ‘Shoe this season

Ohio Stadium’s seating capacity could be one-fifth of what it usually is this fall, and now the university must decide who gets to fill the seats.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Michigan State at Ohio State Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Thursday, Ohio State announced a few adjustments and updates regarding their ticketing process for this season, which includes moving to mobile-ticketing only and a guaranteed refund if any portion of the 2020 football season doesn’t happen.

Deputy Athletics Director Diana Sabau on the mobile-ticketing:

“We are excited to implement digital-only ticketing at our venues and believe it will help us achieve the goal of providing a safe game day experience for everyone. Digital ticketing will allow for contactless entry for fans while also providing flexibility to easily manage their tickets. It will also allow us to better respond to the dynamics surrounding COVID-19 and our increased safety precautions.”

Ohio State on the guaranteed refunds:

“If, for any reason, any portion of the 2020 football schedule does not take place, season ticket holders will have the option to receive a refund for the canceled game tickets, receive a credit toward a future ticket purchase, or donate their season or individual game ticket payment(s) to support student-athlete scholarships. This guarantee will apply to all ticketed athletic events.”

Also listed in the press release was the University’s adjustments in the seat selection process:

  • Seating will account for appropriate physical distancing
  • Seat selection timeline will be adjusted to allow time for conference, state, and local officials to clarify physical distancing guidelines to ensure a safe environment for fans while also maximizing allowable attendance.
  • Seat selection windows will be communicated via email at least five business days prior to the first selection window opening, at which time fans will have the opportunity to preview available seats.

Last week, athletic director Gene Smith said that the aforementioned allowable attendance in Ohio Stadium could be anywhere between 20,000 to 50,000 fans, depending on how relaxed the social distancing guidelines are by then. The maximum capacity of Ohio Stadium is 104,944 people.

Out of all the changes and adjustments happening to make the return to football as safe as possible for everyone involved, this seat selection process is one of the most intriguing ones. How will The Ohio State University powers that be choose who will get in that first selection window?

The short and most realistic answer always comes down to dollar signs. The biggest donors will almost definitely get first dibs on seats. It’s always about the money to begin with. Throw in a pandemic and a major loss of revenue due to the reduced attendance, and the last thing OSU wants to do is taint their relationship with the folks that hold their purse strings.

However, if you’ve ever been to an Ohio State basketball game at the Schottenstein Center, you would know that this course of action would be a death sentence to our home-field advantage. As our Brett Ludwiczak wrote in his piece about the Basketball Bucks’ home arena:

“The student section was moved from the end of the court to the sideline, and while the Buckeye Nuthouse does their best to try and give Ohio State a home court advantage, the students don’t get a ton of help from the rest of the arena. The other fans, who are interested in making noise, are stuck at the top of Value City Arena, while the blue hairs and big-money spenders sit silently, front and center.”

Cutting out 75% of the usual attendance is already a death sentence, which is why the seats that are available should be filled by those who will use them for the greater good. If you eliminate the “Block O,” I promise you that the Ohio State home-game experience will be significantly worse. Obviously the student section won’t be in its usual “Block O” formation this season, but if those who make up the student section are at least present in the stadium and make up the majority, then the enthusiasm, rehearsed cheers, chants and noise will go on—even if each student is six feet a part.

I’m no dummy. I’m fully aware that Ohio State isn’t going to be like “students are more fun at games so let’s give them all the tix!” but, as David Briggs of the Toledo Blade points out, they should give students the first window for the sole fact that students being on campus is quite literally the reason they are selling tickets in the first place.

“If universities need students on campus to play college football — and Michigan president Mark Schlissel sensibly made this clear last week, telling the Wall Street Journal: ‘If there is no on-campus instruction then there won’t be intercollegiate athletics’ — it only stands to reason the students should get first dibs on the tickets.”

Briggs believes that only 5,000 of the available seats should go to donors and fans, while the rest should go to students and the family and guests of players and coaches.

If there are 20,000 tickets to go around, I’d give the students at Ohio State and Michigan at least 15,000 of them, which should take care of every undergrad trying to embrace all they can in a suddenly dystopian college experience. Last year, in regular times, Ohio State sold 21,716 student season tickets; Michigan sold 20,356 student packages. (The same idea applies, in theory, at Toledo and Bowling Green, where student fees are the athletic department’s top source of revenue.)

Some of my absolute favorite memories from my college experience were from my times in the Block O, and if there is in fact an option to allow all undergrads who want to attend a game to do so—which Briggs calculates there is—it would be awesome to see Ohio State make that happen.

Another excellent point comes from Kevin Harrish of Eleven Warriors:

“If we’re really concerned enough about the spread of this virus that we’re going to cut capacity by 50-75 percent, why do we think it’s just a fine idea to have 20,000-50,000 people traveling to and from campus every week? Why not fill the stands with the people who’ve been on campus and will stay on campus afterward?”

I mean, how do you argue with that? Ohio State has the choice of bringing in tens of thousands of strangers, who could potentially be from out of state and who could possibly be really bad contributors to the home field advantage; or let the 60,000+ students in their own backyard who pay thousands to attend their university, and who have been robbed of an otherwise normal collegiate experience, and who will undoubtedly lose their voices from yelling their heads off fill up the majority of the ‘Shoe.

The choice is an easy one, in my opinion. But, ya know...money.