The cancellation of the 2020 fall sports schedule by the Big Ten Conference rocked the college football landscape Tuesday, sending the 14 members of the conference searching for the next steps.
Perhaps nowhere in the conference did the decision sting worse than at Ohio State, a popular preseason pick to win a national title in January and a program that felt it was doing everything it needed in order to play the season.
But with the decisions having already been made, and the dust only beginning to settle, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day has already shifted his focus forward, diving headfirst into the potential for a spring season and how that may look.
“We woke up this morning with, really, our focus on what’s next,” Day said on Wednesday. “That’s really focusing on this spring and the spring schedule, and working on a plan to move forward and the different options that are available.”
However a spring season might look, Day said he has been given no direction from the Big Ten Conference on how to proceed, or what to expect. For a multitude of reasons, Day said he believes the spring season should start as early as January, which would allow for enough time between then and the start of the 2021 fall season.
“I think starting in the first week of January would be the best way to go, an eight-week season,” Day said. “That way, there is some separation between that season and the next season.”
Day said that by having a season in January, it would also allow the early enrollees of the 2021 recruiting class the opportunity to come in and get two seasons in the span of a single year, “which recruits would be excited for.” He later added that trying to play a full schedule that begins in the actual spring, such as March, would be “asking for trouble” in terms of having two seasons in a calendar year.
Whenever it is that Ohio State returns to the field, it is highly likely they will do so without many of their stars who would have been taking part in their final seasons in Columbus this fall. Asked about the likelihood of players electing to move their sights to the NFL rather than prepare for a spring season that may or may not happen, Day said it is imperative that decisions on the spring season are made with haste so that those players can begin making informed decisions.
Asked how long it could be before a spring season model is brought forward, Day said, “I think it has to be fast. What is fast? It has to be (within) weeks, it can’t be months.”
The lasting impact of the Big Ten’s decision to cancel the season is not yet known, but whatever that impact ultimately turns out to be, it will likely be seen in recruiting first. Whether or not players in the program will retain eligibility into next season and elect to come back could fog up the yearly numbers crunch of available scholarships, which Day said is all the more reason why a spring season needs to start early in 2021.
“I’m not if we’re playing in January, February, and March,” Day said when asked if he was concerned with the available spots in the 2021 recruiting class. “If we don’t play, then yeah, that would be a problem. But that’s why we have to put a plan together and get these guys going. I think it’s very, very important that we do play that (season).”
That the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 are still moving forward with plans to play the 2020 season also creates a potentially damaging divide in recruiting for Big Ten schools should the conference not play at all. For that reason, Day continued to double down on the need for a spring season to begin as soon as possible in 2021 so that the conference isn’t left behind on the national recruiting stage.
“If for whatever reason, we weren’t to play in January or February, that would be a whole different story,” Day said of the potential harm to recruiting. “But that’s why I think you have to play, we have to play in January, February, March because of that very reason. So that’s why we’re going to work really, really hard to get that done and keep our focus on that because it would certainly be a big challenge if we didn’t (play).”
Day went on to say he is going to “fight really, really hard” to have it approved that the 2021 early enrollees who would be in school when a season began in January would be allowed to play both the spring and fall seasons while only using one year of eligibility. Such a ruling would go a long way in helping coaches and programs to appeal to recruits despite their absence in the fall.
“I think that’s exciting for (the recruits) and a possibility I’m really interested in,” Day said.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.