Ohio State will not require fans attending home football games this season to provide proof of a full COVID-19 vaccination or recent negative test.
Athletic director Gene Smith said Tuesday that school officials looked into the possibility of a such a policy about a month ago before dropping the idea.
“We’re leaving it up to our fans to be safe and be responsible,” he said.
In the past few weeks, a handful of schools have announced vaccination mandates or a requirement for negative test for those under the age of 12. Four are in the upper-tier Football Bowl Subdivision, including Boston College, Louisiana State, Oregon and Oregon State.
COVID cases:Ohio reports 3,944 new COVID-19 cases Monday
The timing for some came in the aftermath of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granting full approval to Pfizer’s vaccine.
But none of the schools are among the Buckeyes’ fellow members in the Big Ten or in Ohio, a point raised by Smith.
“At the end of the day, we have to let people make a choice,” Smith said. “There’s an assumption of risk here. The reality is people need to be careful. I would hope that if you’re unvaccinated, you will wear a mask. And if you’re uncomfortable being outdoors, you wear a mask.
“You go to grocery stores, you go get gas at the gas station, you go to the movie theaters, people are moving around in our society. So how do you move around safely? You have to figure that out for yourself. Hopefully you do that and be conscious of other people.”
Ohio State has instituted other COVID-19 policies for fan attendance at Ohio Stadium such as requiring masks in indoor spaces, including restrooms, luxury suites and the press box.
Are masks required at Ohio Stadium?
Masks are not required while in the stands of the stadium, concourse level or entry gates.
As coronavirus cases began rising across the state due to the highly contagious delta variant, the university last month instituted an indoor mask mandate regardless of people’s vaccination status.
Unvaccinated people are required to wear masks outdoors when they cannot maintain social distance from others.
This is the first season since 2019 in which spectators are permitted to attend Buckeyes games. Only families of players were allowed last fall due to the pandemic. No capacity restrictions are in place ahead of seven home games this season, allowing Ohio State to seat as much as 104,944.
School officials expect at least 90,000 people to be in attendance for Saturday’s home opener against Oregon with about 10,000 tickets remaining four days ahead of kickoff, according to Brett Scarbrough, Ohio State's associate athletic director for ticketing and premium seating.
A handful of new attendance policies will be in place this season, including mobile-only ticketing and cashless operations for concessions and merchandise.
Student tickets were previously mobile-only in 2019, but now it is in effect for all stadium seats.