For Ohio University, the 2020 football season is officially over.
On Friday, Ohio athletic department personnel confirmed the Bobcats (2-1) will not play again this season, and will not pursue any kind of postseason game. For OU, the clock is now ticking on the 2021 campaign.
In reality, the season ended Tuesday when the Bobcats’ game at Kent State – originally scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 12 – was canceled due to roster issues caused in part by COVID-19 testing and protocols within the Golden Flashes’ program.
It was the third game, of Ohio’s scheduled six, that was canceled. OU was the one doing the canceling because of roster issues for games on Nov. 17 (at Miami) and on Dec. 5 (vs. MAC East champion Buffalo).
Ohio’s 2020 season, from start to finish, will be one forever remembered as star-crossed at best and perhaps a fool’s errand at worst. The Bobcats managed just three practices in the spring (out of 15) before the blossoming COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sporting world.
Now, nearly nine months later, and it’s still the virus dictating the terms across the sports landscape.
Ohio’s summer workout and educational plans were affected as the campus tried to get back to some semblance of normal. But there was no August preseason camp as the Mid-American Conference initially said there wouldn’t be a season at all.
The MAC relented, however — and so too did the Big 10, the Pac-12 and the Mountain West — and the Rust-Belt based league set up a six-game sprint of a season beginning in early November in a desperate plan to get some sort of season completed.
And most MAC teams did complete, or will complete, a six-game schedule. But the Bobcats fell on the wrong side of the COVID-19 spectrum.
The season opener, which consisted of an entire mask-wearing football roster enduring an 8-hour bus trip to Central Michigan, ended with a 30-27 loss on Nov. 4. Six days later, the Bobcats grinded out a 24-10 win over Akron at Peden Stadium.
But Ohio has had just one game in the more than four weeks since, a 52-10 home runaway against Bowling Green on Nov. 28.
It was a season that never felt like it got off the ground, and certainly was never given a chance to land.
There was no dramatic ending, or Senior Day sendoff. Frank Solich relentlessly praised the effort his team made in a quest to have some sort of season.
But it wasn’t to be.
Instead, Ohio saw half of its season addressed in a trio of two-sentence Tweets announcing cancelations. The months spent wearing masks, the endless array of virtual meetings, and the lack of the collegiate experience most through they would be getting bought the Bobcats a too-short season and just three games.
Was it worth it?
Despite those challenges, some said 2020 did matter and will remain to close them. Defensive end Austin Conrad and Brett Kitrell took to social media to say goodbye on Friday evening for example.
Now, the questions about 2021 begin immediately for Ohio. Will Solich come back? He’s endured one of the toughest years of his career, due to the circumstances facing everyone, and is under contract for 2021.
How many of Ohio’s players will opt to return? The NCAA has already granted every player in the country a ‘do-over’ for this season in terms of eligibility. How many will take it?
Conrad and Kitrell were two players set to be honored on Senior Day, and now have indicated they will not return in 2021. Other players designated to be honored on Senior Day for Ohio included running backs Jonathan Barna and Ja’Vahri Portis, grad transfer quarterback Armani Rogers, defensive tackle Kai Caesar, offensive linemen Hagen Meservy and Cole Irland, linebacker Jared Dorsa and tight ends Adam and Ryan Luehrman. Any of them could return, if desired, or they might all decide to move on.
And Ohio is gearing up for the 2021 recruiting class. The first day new recruits can sign is Wednesday, Dec. 16. The Bobcats will need to have a list by then of who they expect to return, and who won’t. The program will also need assurances from the university about what kind of roster number the school will support in 2021.
Just because the NCAA has given clearance for expended scholarship slots for next year is no indication that each individual school will.
Whatever answers Ohio finds to all those questions will be secondary to the sentiment shared across the world.
Next year has to be better, right?