The Ohio State Buckeyes played Denison University on October 12, 1918, a day after headlines splashed across the campus newspaper, the Lantern, proclaimed “University Closes Today To Stop Spread of Influenza.” Another headline of note that morning on campus: “Quarantine Rules Will Not Affect Football Game.”
“After another week of intensified training and preparation, the Scarlet and Gray Varsity stands ready for the whistle of the referee which will send the Buckeyes against Denison in the annual fray between the two schools tomorrow at 2:30 p.m.,” the Lantern reporter wrote about the football game being played as the second wave of the Spanish Flu raged across the United States, killing an estimated 195,000 Americans during October.
“The playing of tomorrow’s game was made possible when Dr. H. Shindle Wingert, director of student health service, gave permission this morning” the Lantern reported. “The question had been put up to Dr. Wingert as to whether the game should be played due to the general quarantine that has been placed on the University. Dr. Wingert stated that if the spectators are distributed throughout the stands as much as possible and at the same time being in the fresh air, that he could see no reason why the game should be pro-…”
In a bio from the Ohio State library, Dr. H. Shindle Wingert is described as a “man ahead of his time” who believed in preventative measures including hand-washing and what’s now called social distancing. Wingert took hand-washing so seriously he’s said to have done just that 100 to 160 times a day.
The Buckeyes went on to drill Denison 34-0. An October 19 game against Northwestern was canceled and football was shelved until November 9 as the flu ravaged the state. 1,500 Ohioans died the last week of October 1918.
Case University traveled to Columbus on November 9 and left for Cleveland with a 56-0 loss. The Buckeyes would play three more times in November. By February, Wingert had declared the epidemic over at Ohio State.
During the Spanish Flu pandemic, health officials ordered Ohio State's campus closed on a Friday.
They played football the next day — with fans — anyway. pic.twitter.com/6UvGNQHnhp
— RJ Young (@RJ_Young) August 20, 2020