Ohio State leadership remained strong in fight for season
Since the day the Big Ten announced the original postponement of fall sports in August, Ohio State has been working.
Working to find a route to any possible football season. Working to ensure the safety of everyone on campus. And working on the field to make sure the football team was ready for any possible start date.
That multi-leveled leadership paid off on Wednesday, when the Big Ten announced an Oct. 23/24 start weekend to the football season.
“Gene Smith and President Johnson- their leadership through this time of uncertainty has been excellent,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “It’s not easy. It’s easy to lead when things are going well, it’s not easy when things are going hard and there’s uncertainty. Their leadership has been strong, and something I’ve learned from.”
Though criticism of the Big Ten and its decisions has come frequently, Day said the attitude in Columbus was one filled with hope, looking for the next opportunity.
“You wake up the next day and you figure out ways to continue to lead,” Day said of his mindset after the original postponement. “And that’s, again, going back to what leadership is. It’s during times like this that when things are hard, when there’s just uncertainty. You just keep pushing forward.”
From new Ohio State president Kristina Johnson to junior quarterback Justin Fields, all facets of Ohio State and its athletic department have been working in union to take the next step into October.
“I love the league, absolutely. And I love Ohio State. I think what it has taught me is that the Big Ten Conference wants to be a leader. And we’ve been a leader in many ways,” Johnson said of her first few months on the job.
So excited for Buckeye Nation and enthusiastically support unanimous @bigten decision to give our student-athletes an opportunity to compete in the sports they love this fall. Grateful to Big Ten colleagues, @OSU_AD, @ryandaytime, and all our coaches and athletes. Go Buckeyes!— Kristina M. Johnson (@PresKMJohnson) September 16, 2020
Johnson and athletic director Gene Smith were adamant in their beliefs that a return to play with a “clean playing field” is possible.
That all depends on the responsibility of the players to stay safe and work through a season- and year- unlike any before. Day praised his players to no end, saying the culture they created was a major reason the program is prepared for an October season.
“They never lost faith, they never lost trust, their behavior through this time has been excellent, and they never stopped fighting,” Day said. “It was during a time that was very, very uncertain. You know, it’s not easy for 19, 20-year olds, young men to go through this. And they did, and the culture was never more evident. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
It all starts at the top. Fields, a 2019 Heisman finalist and 2020 captain, led the Ohio State charge, starting a petition for a season aimed at the Big Ten and appearing on television to stand up for his cause.
The quarterback is a projected top-five pick in next year’s NFL Draft, and with multiple top-tier Big Ten players leaving school to prepare for the next level, the opportunity was there for him to leave Columbus and get paid. He chose to see the process out.
“What can you say about Justin Fields? The way that he has gone about his business, the way that he has been a leader, the way that he has spoken, and been classy about it,” Day said. “I can’t say enough about who he is.”
Johnson said if not for Smith and Day’s adherence to testing guidelines, Ohio State would be in a very different place. Smith echoed the new president’s sentiments, saying the qualities Day has shown in the past month are a testament to the leadership he has had since he took over the program.
“I saw the emotional ups and downs that he endured along the path, and he never, ever wavered in his ability to lead and hold our team together,” Smith said. “Our coaches were our boots on the ground. They were the ones that had to hold the confidence of our individual players and families, and Ryan did a great job of that.”
On every level, Ohio State stood together in a chaotic time where rumors swirled and the plans seemed to change by the day.
The head coach summed it up best. Ohio State football is back and ready to fight, with full support from everyone involved.
“I can’t say enough about our leadership,” Day said. “All the way from the president, to Gene, to our seniors, to our captains. To see Justin Fields get on Good Morning America and the leadership he showed. Our team is stronger right now than it was on August 11 for going through this.”
Take a look at what Day, Johnson, and Smith had to say in full below.