Fans will not be permitted to attend games when Ohio State football returns next month for a reinstated Big Ten season.


As part of a conference-wide policy, schools will not include the general public in the sale of tickets.


Attendance, which is restricted due to concerns over the potential for transmission of COVID-19, is to be limited to the families of players and staff, as well as media members.


The decision was formed by the Big Ten’s medical subcommittee but could be revisited if virus trends improve in the Midwest and players are kept healthy.


"There is a possibility that can be modified," Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson said, "but that would have to come back to the group and we’d have to have really data-informed scientific evidence that we can actually have fans and not cause an epidemic."


Prior to the postponement of the season, Ohio State planned to allow as many as 20,000 fans to attend games at Ohio Stadium and had an architectural firm map out a socially distanced stadium, though further limits on attendance could have been imposed by the governor’s office.


The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals are permitted up to 6,000 spectators at their home games this month.


Buckeyes athletic director Gene Smith said he supported the decision by the conference, saying "our primary objective, obviously, is to get to game play."


"Let's mitigate the risk," Smith added. "Let's just make sure we get the games played and played in a safe way."


The absence of fans leaves Ohio State and other programs in the Big Ten without money from ticket sales. It’s the biggest source of revenue for OSU’s athletic department. According to its latest revenue and expense filing with the NCAA, it brought in $50 million in football tickets sales in the fall of 2018.


But public health experts have raised concerns about crowds at football games becoming superspreader events that could lead to spikes in virus infections.


The Columbus health department recommended the Crew not have 1,500 fans for its game against FC Cincinnati earlier this month.


Many college football programs have been allowing limited attendance this season. Smith said the complications with attendance involved other factors beyond stadium seating.


"We understand that the operations of concessions, restrooms and things of that nature are going to be challenging," Smith said. "We know that sitting in a bowl won't be as challenging as the other operations."


There is no date set for the Buckeyes’ first game. The reinstated season will begin on Oct. 23 or Oct. 24, but schedules are not expected to be released until at least later this week, said Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who chairs the Big Ten’s scheduling committee.


jkaufman@dispatch.com


@joeyrkaufman