PORTSMOUTH — Well, apparently, the waiting game regarding “full contact” sports goes on.
But, as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine insists, an important announcement is coming “very, very soon”.
That decision definitely wasn’t announced on Tuesday — despite DeWine holding another of his “daily” coronavirus press briefings.
During a press briefing on Friday, DeWine said a significant announcement regarding fall sports should be made this week — with the decision encompassing professional, college, high school and junior high sports.
DeWine echoed Lt. Gov. Jon Husted’s comments on Monday, in which he told The Sidney Daily News via telephone that an announcement regarding if and when contact sports such as football and soccer can compete this fall is coming soon.
For the Ohio High School Athletic Association-sanctioned sports and their student-athletes and coaches, which are still practicing in preparation for fall seasons despite the ongoing coronavirus threat, it’s going to be a tense time.
Some student-athletes are returning to play — in the “low contact” or “non contact” sports of volleyball, girls tennis, golf and now cross country.
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.
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 didn’t anticipate that suspension being lifted any time soon.
Then last Friday, in a swift late-day news dump that actually included a bombshell announcement, the OHSAA Board of Directors “approved a modification to the (OHSAA) football season that we believe will be a win‐win for all parties.”
That press release proceeded an e-mailed memo to member schools from OHSAA interim Executive Director Bob Goldring, as he wrote that “while affirming that our fall sports seasons will start as planned, the modification will shorten the length of the 2020 football regular season to a six‐game schedule prior to the playoffs beginning.”
A 10-game regular season reduced down to six, starting the week of Aug. 24 and ending the week of Sept. 28.
The playoffs would begin on Friday, Oct. 9 — with the state finals ending no later than Saturday, Nov. 21.
Goldring wrote that the OHSAA, “in continuing our constructive, ongoing conversations with the Governor’s Office, we were advised this week that ending our season earlier in football was in the best interest of the participants due to the uncertainty of what colder weather could do to COVID‐19 cases. It should be noted (and as previously communicated) that school vs. school competition in football (and the other contact sports of soccer and field hockey) will not move forward unless the Ohio Director of Health’s Order is amended.”
Husted hasn’t made any announcement either, and has maintained that discussions with the OHSAA are ongoing.
“The OHSAA and our team have had constructive conversations and we also share the same goal of returning to play and doing it safely,” Husted told the Sidney Daily News. “We’ll have an announcement on all that in the very near future, but I don’t want to get ahead of that announcement. We try to share with them all the information we have with what’s happening with schools, the latest health information we have, and how that could potentially impact contact/non contact sports. To the extent they use that information to craft their plans, you’d have to ask them about that. I don’t want to interject as having had any role in (their plans) other than just trying to provide some good advice. I’ve reviewed all documents that they’ve produced or they have developed in the hopes of returning to play for contact sports. We have our own guidelines that we’re developing. We want to make sure they’re aligned with the OHSAA, because ultimately they’re going to have to provide the accountability for any return to play. They’ll have to make sure it’s done safely and make sure that we share the goal of limiting the spread of the coronavirus.”
Husted played college football at the University of Dayton, and said sports and extracurricular activities are important to students’ personal growth.
“For young people, sports and extracurricular activities may be the thing they’ve invested more time in than anything else,” he said. “This matters to them. It is a source of hope, it is a source of happiness. Extracurricular activities in my experience are also incredibly important in developing character skills, grit, determination, resilience, the ability to exercise teamwork. …I think the combination of how important it is to the physical and mental health of students and their overall development make it really important that we do our best to allow these students to have a season.”
But among those who won’t be having a season are the collegiate conferences of the Mid-American and the Big Ten, which on Saturday and Tuesday respectively postponed their entire 2020 fall sports campaigns.
Both conferences have geographical footprints in Ohio, with six universities — Akron, Bowling Green, Kent State, Miami University, Ohio University and Toledo — as members of the MAC.
And, of course, Ohio State is arguably the most renown university in all of now the 14-school Big Ten.
While DeWine didn’t address sports specifically during Tuesday’s press briefing, he was asked directly about it — including football — in the media’s question-and-answer session.
Among the questions posed was the impact of the Big Ten’s decision to postpone fall sports to the spring on high school sports.
“These decisions are not made in a vacuum by schools, by parents or by us. We talk to a lot of people,” said DeWine. “The basic facts don’t change based on what the Big Ten does.”
Still, student-athletes, coaches, administrators, observers and sports fans are demanding decisions be made.
Hopefully, as DeWine insists, they will be made “very, very soon”.
That’s because, judging from Internet message boards and social media posts, patience — like time — is rapidly running out.
DeWine will have, or is scheduled to have, another press briefing on Thursday (Aug. 13) at 2 p.m.
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Bryant Billing, sports editor of The Sidney Daily News, contributed to this report
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved