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Text Messages Reveal Ohio State Considered Going Independent

Ohio State football athletic director Gene Smith at a press conference about college football coach Urban Meyer.

COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 04: Ohio State University athletics director Gene Smith listens during a press conference at Ohio State University on December 4, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. At the press conference head coach Urban Meyer announced his retirement and offensive coordinator Ryan Day was announced as the next head coach. Meyer will continue to coach until after the Ohio State Buckeyes play in the Rose Bowl. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

After the Big Ten made its initial decision to cancel the 2020 football season, there was plenty of speculation that some of the diehard football schools may try to strike out on their own for the fall. College football doesn't get much bigger than Ohio State, and the Buckeyes flirted with the idea of playing as an independent, new text messages show.

Ohio State and Nebraska were at the forefront of efforts to get the Big Ten to reverse its cancellation decision. They were ultimately successful; the league played an eight-week conference schedule, and the Buckeyes ran the table, knocked off a surprising Northwestern in the conference title game, and crushed Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal before losing to Alabama in the title game.

Had the Big Ten not acquiesced, it would have been fascinating to see how far Ohio State and Nebraska may have pushed things. OSU just released documents from the fall, featuring text messages from AD Gene Smith about the program exploring their options as an independent for the year.

"Just jumped off university call and on the Big Ten call. Your comments are so appreciated... I am trying to understand our contracts and if we can play independent this year," Smith says to OSU president Kristina Johnson. "Nebraska is trying too and gone public with it."

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren made it very clear that Nebraska was not welcome to pursue an independent schedule back in the fall. "No...not and be a member of the Big Ten Conference,” he said. Smith was also not in favor of a spring season, which was kicked around for a while. A majority of the FCS level wound up playing in the spring, while FBS squeezed in its fall season.

Ohio State probably has a bit more sway with the league. Had the Buckeyes pushed more aggressively, this would have been a very interesting issue to follow. [

Ohio State released a ton of documents today about the Big Ten initially canceling the fall season. Among them, Buckeyes AD Gene Smith admitting via text the Buckeyes were exploring going independent in 2020 like Nebraska.

— Chris Hummer (@chris_hummer) May 26, 2021

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