COLUMBUS — Jerry Snodgrass, for as long as he possibly can, is holding on to hope — and keeping windows open.
However, he knows that with any Mike DeWine directive — and at any time — those windows, just like that, are closed.
During a press conference on Thursday at the Ohio High School Athletic Association offices in Columbus, Snodgrass provided an update on the situation with winter sports tournaments indefinitely postponed —as well as the current status of OHSAA spring sports re-starting on Monday, April 6.
The OHSAA-hosted and live-streamed press conference was the latest in a series of updates in which the governing body for high school athletics in the state of Ohio is attempting — albeit even desperately — to keep its incomplete 2020 winter sports tournaments and spring sports seasons from being altogether canceled.
Of course, those postponements go hand-in-hand with what DeWine — the Ohio governor — will decide regarding the closure of the state’s schools.
As it stands now, as DeWine officially announced last Thursday, ALL school districts within the Buckeye State —public and private —are closed until April 6.
Should DeWine declare, at any point, that the closure be extended for the remainder of the academic year, then spring sports — which for Scioto County include track and field, boys tennis, baseball and softball — will be canceled.
“We will consult with our member schools before any decision is made. We owe that to our schools. We are not canceling anything today, but in two days we could be done. Everything is on the table,” said Snodgrass, the OHSAA’s Executive Director. “We are not strictly waiting on the governor, but it is definitely a factor in our decision-making process.”
With all of Scioto County’s winter sports teams eliminated from postseason competition, the main development on that front was Snodgrass saying that the fate of those tournaments — whether they are canceled or not — will likely be decided upon within the next 24 to 48 hours.
When the announcement was made last Thursday to indefinitely postpone the winter sports tournaments, the annual girls state basketball tournament was minutes away from tipping off —while the boys basketball regional tournaments were still ongoing with Division II semifinals, plus finals for the remaining three divisions.
Snodgrass stated that the OHSAA — a non-profit organization — expects to lose an estimated $1.4 to $1.5 million dollars worth of ticket revenue as a result of the postponements and possible cancellation of its winter tournaments.
That’s out of a $19 million total budget, in which 80-percent of that is generated by ticket sales.
“If it was all about money, we would probably go on and have those (tournaments) no matter what,” said Snodgrass.
As for spring sports, which are part of the OHSAA’s current dead period which went into effect on Monday, Snodgrass said they remain in that holding pattern — but it is contingent upon a DeWine decision to either re-open schools on April 6, extend the school-closure directive, or simply shut school districts down for the remainder of the academic year.
The entire crisis has been brought about with the threat of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), in which — as of Thursday afternoon — there are more than 100 confirmed cases in Ohio.
“We are in the athletic business, but we are in the education business first. We are an extension of the classroom,” said Snodgrass. “These decisions to postpone our winter sports tournaments and our spring sports season are not made lightly and they are not made out of emotion. I know how important a softball game is or a track meet is to a student-athlete. Or how important competing for a state championship is. We never under-estimate that. But we are not going to put high school sports so far up on a pedestal where they are separate from education. It’s (COVID-19) a severe virus that, as the governor said, ‘we must go to war with and defeat.’ That is why we continue with a postponement of our winter sports and a tentative schedule of our spring sports.”
Spring sports, should they resume in fact on April 6, would have a re-acclimation period of exactly one week —from Monday, April 6 thru Saturday, April 11.
There also exists the possibility, if there is an extension of the school closure but not complete cancellation of the academic year, that spring sports could start in early to mid-May — and that postseason competition could, or would, take place in mid-to-late-June.
“Even if extension of the school closure is a week, we still have room for them (spring sports) to be played,” said Snodgrass.
Of course, availability of sites for spring sports state tournaments becomes an issue.
“Extending tournaments into summer months is problematic on different fronts,” said Snodgrass. “We don’t expect parents or fans to understand why. We will not put schools, sites or venues at risk to explain that.”
However, should the remainder of the academic year get axed altogether, then so do ALL spring sports.
Snodgrass, in answering 10 frequently-asked questions posed to him and OHSAA administrators over the past week, said senior student-athletes — should spring sports be canceled —will NOT receive an additional year of eligibility.
“There is no discussion about that,” he said. “There are no red-shirts.”
As for academic eligibility going forward into the fall sports season, Snodgrass said the OHSAA is working on a plan for that —should schools close for the remainder of the year.
He also said he and his staff have heard from numerous student-athletes, coaches and administrators in regards to the entire situation.
“I know the emotion that comes with this,” said Snodgrass. “Student-athletes have reached out. One told me she was holding me personally responsible. I hope they hold me personally responsible to have done my part to get athletics back. School athletics will come back and we need our schools and coaches to be unified.”
In regards to the 2020 fall sports season — which includes football, cross country, volleyball, boys and girls soccer, girls tennis and boys and girls golf — Snodgrass said it “has not been discussed”.
“Every one of us understands how rapidly-moving and fluid this situation is. I guarantee it’s now on our radar to start to look at the what-ifs (for fall sports),” he said.
But first things first, for sure, Snodgrass kept the flame lit for a possible — even if abbreviated — spring sports season to take place.
“I think people forget this (school-based athletics) is what we do (at OHSAA) every single day of our lives. These are emotional times for all of us,” he said. “Canceling (spring sports) is on the table, but everything is on the table. Right now, spring sports remain postponed with our tentative schedule still in place.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved