PORTSMOUTH — Once again, the Ohio High School Athletic Association exits one academic year — and enters another.
Although, as we all know by now, 2020 hasn’t been, is not, and absolutely won’t be remembered as any other ordinary year.
That said, and has held true for the OHSAA in response to the coronavirus threat, the association announced adjustments to some of its by-laws via memo on Friday —which was officially posted on Monday on OHSAA social media accounts.
The most noteworthy was in regards to fall scholarship eligibility, which declares that “all students entering grades 7‐12 will be eligible for 2020 fall sports insofar as academic eligibility is concerned.”
The memo was written by OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass and issued to all member school administrators on Friday afternoon (May 29).
Last Tuesday (May 26), the OHSAA officially lifted its mandatory dead period —which had been in place since March 16 and extended twice since to align with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s original order that ALL Ohio schools, both public and private, be closed effective on that date.
DeWine then declared on April 20 that all in-person attendance for the Buckeye State’s schools would be cancelled for the remainder of the academic year, prompting the OHSAA’s original extension of its no-contact period thru May 31.
Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted announced that the state and the OHSAA have agreed to allow —starting on Tuesday, May 26 —ALL student-athletes to begin individual skills training at school facilities, BUT at the discretion of individual school districts.
That information was made official in an OHSAA memo on May 21, and included a mention about forthcoming fall eligibility adjustments.
Those adjustments in that administrative update appeared along the Internet beginning on Friday, and included information on “fall scholarship eligibility”, “2021 spring sport transfer eligibility”, “5th-year eligibility”, “2021 Spring Sport Competitive Balance Numbers’” and “PPE/Athletic Physicals”.
The memo said “With the passing of an OHSAA constitution issue during the recently‐completed referendum voting, the OHSAA Office has been given authority to temporarily suspend strict compliance to various OHSAA constitution articles, bylaws and/or sports regulations if the non‐compliance is a direct result of the COVID‐19 pandemic and provided the suspensions remain consistent with the purpose of the rules and regulations.”
As for fall sports academic eligibility in which all high school and junior high students are indeed eligible in 2020, the OHSAA cited a “wide‐range of academic grades being given for classwork during the final grading period”.
In addition, “no transfer student, including those who participated in a 2020 spring sport scrimmage, will be subject to the transfer consequence in spring 2021. However, the student will still be held accountable to the transfer consequence for any fall or winter sport in which he/she may have participated during the 12 months preceding his/her transfer.”
All 2020 spring sports senior student-athletes are NOT being offered an additional season or year of eligibility, as Ohio is one of 44 states which is denying senior student-athletes that option.
The memo also addressed two 2021 spring sport Competitive Balance numbers issues, as the OHSAA’s Board of Directors approved last week “a staff recommendation that strict compliance with Bylaw 2, Section 2 be modified for the spring sports of baseball and softball as they relate to Competitive Balance, and that schools with those sports for the 2021 seasons only be assigned to tournament divisions based strictly on their EMIS numbers (and therefore no modifications utilizing Competitive Balance factors would be included).”
That staff proposal was based on a unanimous recommendation from the OHSAA Competitive Balance Committee.
Finally, for physicals, the OHSAA’s Joint Advisory Committee on Sports Medicine recommended to “continue with the requirement for an annual Pre‐Participation Physical Evaluation (PPE) every 13 months for all seventh thru 12th-grade students.”
Mass physicals for the upcoming academic year are strongly discouraged “for the benefit of public health”, and that all students are recommended to receive a PPE in a private setting.
The physical exams are strongly recommended to “be done at a medical home” and that students who have had a PPE within the past year “to conduct their 2020-21 PPE in person or via telehealth as long as the usual forms are filled out, signed and in the provider’s hands prior to the visit”.
The memo also addressed DeWine’s restrictions and recommendations relative to COVID-19 and athletic participation.
For “low-contact” or “non-contact” OHSAA-sanctioned sports —which include baseball, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and golf —they have been permitted to begin competing as long as they are following the Responsible RestartOhio guidelines established by DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health.
The OHSAA’s “full-contact” sports, conversely, remain limited to skills training and conditioning only.
Skills training is defined and the mandated and recommended restrictions are posted at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/Skills-Training-All%20Sports.pdf —as the six feet of social distancing rule applies to all players, coaches and parents.
No additional spectators are permitted at the training facilities.
“There may be no contests or scrimmages of any sort, including, but not limited to, team camps, any type of event with another team, games, scrimmages, tournaments, etc.,” Snodgrass wrote, as he also addressed at the outset of the memo “many rumors circulating relative to the reopening of summer basketball tournaments”.
The OHSAA, citing confirmation with Husted’s office, stated “there is simply no truth to any of those”.
The memo re-emphasized in its closing that “the decision to open school facilities still remains at the local level, as does any decision to provide stricter guidelines and limitations beyond what the Governor has provided. Should you have questions or concerns, please reach out to your school district or local health department who should be overseeing these guidelines and decisions.”
“Beyond the Responsible RestartOhio guidelines, the choices of how these sports are taking place across the state of Ohio is a decision to be made at the local level. It is up to your school/school district to determine how to implement these sports at your facilities in a safe and responsible manner, following the RestartOhio guidelines at a minimum,” it said. “Some examples are how many are permitted in your gym for skills training, how your bleachers will be spaced out for spectators at a baseball scrimmage, how often you’re able to sanitize the ball you are using—all of these decisions are up to your school district, as facilities across the state differ. Again, these decisions are to be made at the local level and not the OHSAA. We want to continue to help with guidance where needed.”
And with that, let a new academic year begin.
The OHSAA, maintaining all health and safety protocols, is re-opening its offices in Columbus in two weeks — effective on June 16.
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