PORTSMOUTH — It indeed appears as if the waiting game for fall “full contact” sports in Ohio will go on for a little longer.
Or, at least, that is the prevailing thought following Tuesday’s “daily” coronavirus press briefing by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine with Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted.
On a day in which the fate of Ohio’s 2020 “full contact” high school sports was a hot topic, all Husted said was that DeWine’s office continues to work with the Ohio High School Athletic Association for devising a season plan.
While “full contact” sports, which for Scioto County are only football and soccer, may proceed with practices — inter-squad competition remains prohibited “unless ALL teams comply with the requirements set forth in Section 10 of this Order so as to minimize the spread of COVID-19. This Order applies to both public and private activities and facilities”.
“This Order” is an extension of an original Ohio Department of Health order which was initially signed on July 4, and currently has no new expiration date — as DeWine signed it late on Saturday night (Aug. 1).
The OHSAA, in an e-mailed memo to member schools on Monday, explained the ODH order — again.
“Section 10 of Order has not changed since the first Order that was released earlier in July,” the memo stated. “As has been the case for several weeks but has now gained more attention from school administrators, coaches and the public since the OHSAA contact sports that include football, soccer and field hockey were permitted to begin official practices as of August 1, intra-team contact is permitted in the form of practices and scrimmages. Contact with another team in the form of scrimmages and contests is currently not permitted unless the competition is in compliance with all of the requirements in this section of the Order. This contact is also referred to as school vs. school or inter-team.”
In an e-mailed memo to member schools on July 28, the OHSAA announced the immediate and indefinite suspension of ALL inter-squad scrimmages and contests — and doesn’t anticipate that suspension being lifted any time soon.
For football (target date of Monday, Aug. 24) and soccer (target date of Friday, Aug. 21), Friday’s (July 31) memo mentioned “school vs. school contests will follow per their normal OHSAA permissible dates and regulations” with their respective target dates, BUT “these dates are subject to change and subject to the approval from the Governor’s Office/Ohio Department of Health and with the stipulation that COVID‐19 testing will not be required”.
Husted did say on Tuesday that extensive and mandatory coronavirus testing of athletes prior to competition is “not part of the plan” for the resumption of “full contact” sports.
In Monday’s memo, the OHSAA emphasized that the in-place ODH order is “temporary”, and that “we continue to work with the Governor’s Office and Department of Health regarding potential modifications to various sections of the Order and all parties are in concert in targeting late August as the start of permissible school vs. school contests in the sports of football, soccer and field hockey. We will certainly keep the membership apprised of any changes to the Director’s Order in the coming weeks.”
From the way DeWine and Husted talked on Tuesday, it might well be cutting oh so close to the opening of those seasons that the fate of “full contact” sports are finally decided upon.
For football, the final weekend in August (Aug. 27-30) officially marks the regular-season openers.
DeWine has been asked repeatedly about “full contact” sports, as his office continually watches the statewide statistics showing increasing confirmed coronavirus cases.
More time is necessary to make a decision, he said.
Therefore, no decisions —as some had hoped for or even anticipated —were announced (again) on Tuesday.
“We don’t know what exactly is going to happen as we move forward,” said DeWine. “We have provided for the continuation of practices and things that are normally done. What we have not done because frankly we want to get a little bit closer to the date and see where this situation is with the COVID-19, we have not provided for the final ‘go’ as far as fall sports, particularly in regard to contact sports.”
“We are still working with the Ohio High School Athletic Association to finalize that plan, and we are still considering many options,” said Husted. “We are trying to keep the options open because we want student-athletes to return to play.”
Some student-athletes are returning to play — in the “low contact” or “non contact” sports of volleyball, girls tennis, golf and now cross country.
Husted confirmed cross country is now a “low contact” sport and is allowed to have competition between schools —just like volleyball, girls tennis and golf.
The first boys and/or girls golf matches could take place on Wednesday (Aug. 5), while the first girls tennis matches can take place beginning Friday (Aug 7).
After an allowable five scrimmages and one permitted preview, volleyball’s first contest can take place on Aug. 21.
Those sports must also continue to follow COVID-19 prevention guidelines, as they were allowed to resume practice the day after Memorial Day.
While most of the state presently presses on, many Ohio high school programs —including some of the larger districts in the larger cities —have either cancelled fall sports, or have delayed them until at least Oct. 1.
Several have shut down within the last week — due to either positive cases of the coronavirus or fears of it spreading among student-athletes and coaches.
Those athletics activities shutdowns are largely based on the recommendation by individual county health departments, as the OHSAA holds firm that extra-curriculars are strictly a decision made by each individual Ohio school district.
Both DeWine and Husted said they understand the “great frustration” shared by all involved with “full contact” sports.
Indeed, it is an extremely uncertain —and unsettling —situation.
“The age-old expression is what sports teaches you is when you get knocked down, you need to get up and move on,” said DeWine. “You need to get back in the fight and get back in the game. Tremendous advantages in regards to sports.”
However, and should be asked, how does one get back in the game when waiting longer is the only game going?
The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association is also working with Husted, regarding review of its 39-page proposal which was submitted to the state two weeks ago.
An originally scheduled Tuesday teleconference, which was to include OHSFCA and OHSAA representatives along with Husted, was moved up a day to Monday —per an OHSFCA memo to member coaches sent Sunday.
That proposal covers, in great detail, the feasibility of playing this year.
DeWine will have, or is scheduled to have, another press briefing on Thursday (Aug. 6) at 3 p.m.
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