COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A major announcement was made by the Big Ten Conference on Thursday stating that if schools are able to participate in fall sports this year, they will move to a conference-only schedule.

This includes men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball. The announcement came one day after the Ivy League cancelled all of its fall sports.

Eliminating non-conference games, however, does not guarantee a football season for the Buckeyes. Recent positive COVID-19 test results for student athletes at the Ohio State University have some worried that there will be no way to safely hold sporting events this fall.

That could be devastating to the University and the local economy, according to the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.​ Don DePerro, President and CEO of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, says the school’s football program drives the local economy, as is the case in college towns across the U.S.

“It’s a unifying factor of our community,” said DePerro.​ “It brings us all together. It gives us a central point to rally around, to get excited about, to cheer for, and to celebrate.”

DePerro estimates losing an entire season would impact the local economy to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Without games to watch on television, patrons will have less reason to visit local bars and restaurants.

Other impacted businesses include hotels that host fans and visiting teams, retailers who sell team merchandise at home games, caterers who make food for tailgates, and liquor stores who rely on gameday profits.

Beyond the economic impact, DePerro is concerned about how losing a season of Buckeye football will affect fans’ psyche.​

“OSU football is so much of a fabric of our society, of our community here,” he said. “We identify with Ohio State University football. I’m worried about what it will do to all of us as fans.”​

Kelly Dawes owns College Traditions located close to campus and within sight of The ‘Shoe. The shop relies heavily on Buckeyes football to drive sales. ​

“It’s our bread and butter. It’s what drives this business,” said Dawes. “Not having football, if that’s the way they go, it’s going to impact a lot of people and it will depress people.”​

The shop does have an online store and business has been steady there, but according to Dawes, nothing compares to sales during the week leading up to a home game. She said on a Saturday home game, people are packed shoulder to shoulder. inside her shop, something that won’t be seen during the COVID-19 era.

“Ultimately, we have to make sure that everybody is safe and healthy,” she said. “I’m just optimistic that there’s going to be some way around it. But definitely we’ve all made sacrifices and we just have to continue to make sure that the safety and the health, welfare of all of Columbus, and our nation, is good.”​

DePerro shares that same feeling.

“I’m a huge sports fan, and I love Ohio State Football,” he said. “I think we have to really think about this seriously. These are young people. These are people in their late teens and early 20s and their health has to be paramount, and I’m sure the officials at Ohio State, their new University president, and Gene Smith are taking a very hard look at this and if they think that for a minute that they’re putting these student athletes in any peril whatsoever, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a major decision coming very soon. We have to think about the health, welfare, and safety and security of these student athletes and that’s our utmost concern.”​

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