PORTSMOUTH — It wasn’t a slap in the face, or even a kick to the gut.
No, Monday’s news —unfortunate in nature but in most ways expected — was a punch to the heart, thanks to a novel but lethal and quite contagious virus.
That’s because, after announcing postponements in mid-March and again four weeks ago, the Ohio High School Athletic Association officially announced on Monday that ALL 2020 OHSAA-sanctioned spring sports seasons are indeed canceled.
In a late Monday memo, e-mailed to member schools from OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass, it simply said: “As we have stated in our previous communications, today’s (Monday’s) announcement by Governor DeWine to close schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year also will now result in the cancellation of OHSAA-sponsored spring sports seasons including tournaments.”
In Scioto County, there are a dozen school districts —and those student-athletes which compete in boys tennis, track and field, softball and baseball are officially out of a season.
For those same student-athletes, and unlike what has happened with the NCAA or NAIA on the collegiate level, there will NOT be an extra season of spring sports eligibility allowed.
For senior student-athletes, it marks the unfortunate — and in most cases crushing — end of their athletic careers.
The OHSAA announced its cancellation of spring sports following Monday’s announcement by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine that the state’s schools would be closed for in-person attendance for the remainder of the academic year.
DeWine said online or “remote learning” would continue for Ohio’s schools, but as Snodgrass has stated in previous memos and/or media releases —including a memo last Friday — “when this (Ohio schools closure for remainder of academic year) is confirmed by Governor DeWine and/or State Supt. of Schools DeMaria, we will be confirming the cancellation of spring sports as we have previously indicated.”
That confirmation came down on Monday, as Snodgrass reminded member schools that the OHSAA’s current no-contact period remains in effect until at least Sunday, May 3.
Electronic communication is still permitted, but coaches are encouraged to maintain correspondence and provide workout information to individuals only —not to organize for small-group instruction or practices.
Any adjustments or extensions to that date, Snodgrass continued, would be communicated in advance — but that “94-percent of current respondents to Friday’s survey of member school administrators would expect this to be extended to June 1.”
The closure of school facilities includes all athletic facilities for any interscholastic training, practice or competition.
The OHSAA is currently in a dead period — which went into effect on March 16 to coincide with DeWine’s original order that ALL Ohio schools, both public and private, be closed effective on that date.
DeWine’s original announcement that schools be closed came on March 12, as Snodgrass sent a memo to member schools the following day to officially announce the mandated no-contact period.
At the time, the no-contact period — in conjunction with the schools-closure directive in response to the threat of the coronavirus —was set to expire after April 5.
In a March 31 memo, Snodgrass wrote that the dead period was extended thru May 1, and that no practices or competitions may occur through that day.
Snodgrass wrote: “This is to assist with the Governor’s ‘stay at home’ order, to prohibit coaches from privately meeting with student-athletes AND to put all schools on an equal level relative to future competitive opportunities.”
That particular date was in sync with what DeWine issued on April 2 — an extension of his mandate that the Buckeye State’s schools remain closed AND that the state’s “stay-at-home” order remain in effect until then (May 1).
Two weeks ago, on April 8, the OHSAA issued another memo — which included tentative schedules for each spring sport, starting with the regular seasons opening on Saturday, May 9.
Those schedules spanned all of May and almost all of June — should spring sports NOT get cancelled by the OHSAA beforehand.
In that same memo, Snodgrass wrote that the OHSAA continues “to stay in close contact with the state’s leadership relative to stay-at-home orders. If schools are closed for the remainder of the school year, spring sports will be cancelled in Ohio.”
The OHSAA did not plan to make a public statement, or post a media release, until Tuesday at the earliest.
Snodgrass did write in Monday’s memo, though, that attention now shifts to saving summer activities and fall sports.
“I want to stress the ‘uncertainties,’ but as we now look into the summer and the fall, we will communicate plans/adjustments to our regulations as uncertainties become realities. I want to assure you that we are looking at everything,” he wrote. “For example, when the first decision to close schools was made, we looked at eligibility concerns. About three weeks ago we began looking at all models if fall sports’ seasons were affected – still an uncertainty. We are looking at everything from ‘physicals’ (and the potential difficulty of getting them) to the possible need to treat/disinfect artificial surfaces. We will pass along guidance and regulation adjustments as uncertainties become better understood. We are drawing on a long-established OHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Group for professional recommendations for many of these concerns and issues.”
One of Snodgrass’ concerns was of non-school programs attempting to fill the void.
“While our job representing the member schools is to organize and conduct school-sponsored events, I realize also that many non-school club/travel/community programs utilize school facilities. Many also use other facilities. I am concerned with non-school programs putting our students at risk and filling the void left by the cancellation of spring sports as well as current shutdowns that prohibit out-of-season training/open gyms by school coaches,” he wrote. “The State Superintendent of Schools (Paolo DeMaria), through a meeting with the governor, requested a meeting on Thursday to discuss concerns over this. I hope to be able to update you sometime soon after this meeting.”
From Friday’s memo, Snodgrass wrote that the 7th-and-8th grade state track and field championships —set for Saturday, May 16 —were cancelled, as well as the OHSAA’s Scholar-Athlete Program for the 2019-20 academic year.
That program includes the awarding of scholarship money and the annual banquets which are held by the OHSAA’s six District Athletic Boards, including the Southeast District’s banquet — usually held in late June.
And, late June would have been when spring sports should have concluded this year, but unfortunately Monday’s news amounted to what in most ways was expected.
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