CINCINNATI (FOX19) - This is one small step for the recovery, one giant leap for major college sports.
The NCAA released an official statement Wednesday night to begin opening the doors for college basketball and football players in June.
“Division I football and basketball student-athletes can participate in on-campus voluntary athletics activities beginning June 1, the Division I Council decided in a virtual meeting Wednesday, as long as all local, state and federal regulations are followed,” the NCAA said in a statement.
Facilities that have been empty for months won’t be much longer.
June 8 is the target date for Ohio State, according to athletic director Gene Smith.
“We picked that date for transition purposes, with the date announced by the NCAA and to give [the athletes] time [to travel]," said Smith. "Even though it’s voluntary, we know our players want to be here. We want them in a clean and comfortable and safe environment.”
A Xavier University athletics spokesperson told FOX19 NOW Wednesday night that XU is shooting for a return on June 1.
The University of Cincinnati athletics department said in a statement that UC is close to finalizing a plan.
“We all believe we’re going to play football," UC athletic director John Cunningham recently told FOX19 NOW in an exclusive interview. "We’re planning to play football. We think that’s going to happen.”
“Cautiously optimistic” is the term Gene Smith used on Wednesday.
With the return of players on campus, Smith is hopeful that anywhere from 20-50,000 fans could still attend games this fall.
“We’re talking 20,000 to 25,000 people in the stands - that’s a reality," said Smith. “If we can figure out an environment for the players, I think we can figure it out for the fans. And it’s outdoors, it’s not like you’re in a living room situation. I think we can figure it out.”
Smith later added in a tweet that he believes as many as 50,000 fans could attend games at Ohio Stadium this fall is social distancing guidelines are relaxed.