PORTSMOUTH — The Ohio High School Athletic Association, along with everybody else involved with “full contact” sports in Ohio, has long waited for this day.
That’s because, as he specifically stated during his most recent coronavirus press briefing, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine will in fact make an announcement on Tuesday (Aug. 18) in regards to high school sports.
More importantly, it’s the decision on “full contact” sports that has the OHSAA — and the masses — especially tuned in.
The month of August has featured fall sports season practices for OHSAA-sanctioned sports, but as of now, the “full contact” sports of football and soccer cannot conduct inter-squad scrimmages or games —thanks to an Ohio Department of Health order which was initially signed on July 4, and currently has no new expiration date.
However, when DeWine was asked during the media’s question-and-answer session on Thursday, he hinted that “full contact” sports will in fact take place despite the continued coronavirus threat—provided that he and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted hash out any detailed plans with OHSAA officials over last weekend.
Hence, as he restated, the announcement is coming Tuesday.
DeWine did say, though, that the number of spectators shall be limited at events — and that individual school districts and health departments will play a major role in his decision-making.
“The Lt. Governor and I will have an announcement on Tuesday about high school sports,” said DeWine, on Thursday. “We’ve been working with the Ohio High School Athletic Association to get it right, to provide guidelines to make it as safe as possible. This is a decision that is going to be made by parents and by schools, and even local health departments. They’re going to make those decisions. I have a great deal of confidence in the coaches because they have the opportunity – not just in practice and not just in games – to impress upon their young men and women to keep a distance and be safe, but that it’s also important what they do when they’re not playing. We’re going to restrict the number of fans. We want the athletes to compete, we want the young people to have their seasons, but we want to do it as safely as possible. It’s about the kids. So we’ll be able to announce everything in more detail on Tuesday.”
Well, Tuesday is upon us —and the OHSAA, in interviews with various media outlets over the past week, expressed overall confidence that DeWine will allow “full contact” sports to proceed forward.
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 (ODH) Order so as to minimize the spread of COVID-19. This Order applies to both public and private activities and facilities”.
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.
That should be lifted with DeWine’s words, and the Ohio Department of Health’s actions, to rescind its in-place order.
The OHSAA e-mailed another memo to member schools on Thursday evening.
“Although there was no definite commitment today (Thursday) from Governor DeWine during his news conference regarding the approval of the contact sports of football, soccer and field hockey being permitted to have school vs. school competition with modifications being made to the Ohio Department of Health Director’s Order, we continue in conversations with the Governor’s Office, are working tirelessly in a cohesive effort and believe our plans to move forward with the start of our seasons are in concert,” the memo said. “The Governor, in fact, said an announcement will be forthcoming on Tuesday (August 18).”
The situation with fall sports was first mentioned in mid-March, but following the April 20 cancellation of the OHSAA’s spring sports seasons, the focus then shifted to saving the fall.
It was widely believed that DeWine was going to make some significant sports-related announcements earlier this month, but for five straight press briefings dating back to July 30, the proverbial can has been continuously kicked down the road.
DeWine has been asked specifically about “full contact” sports, as his office continually watches the statewide statistics showing increasing confirmed coronavirus cases.
More time was necessary to make a decision, he said.
Therefore, no decisions —as some had hoped for or even anticipated —were announced (again) on Thursday.
However, time — and people’s patience — is rapidly running out.
While the soccer season is officially set to start on Friday, the first weekend of football throughout the state is set for the final weekend of this month.
As part of the formal proposal put together and released on Aug. 7 by the OHSAA, all Ohio high school football teams will play only six games in this regular season —which will begin the week of Aug. 24 and end the week of Sept. 28.
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.”
The playoffs would begin on Friday, Oct. 9 — with the state finals ending no later than Saturday, Nov. 21.
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 month — due to either positive cases of the coronavirus or fears of it spreading among student-athletes and coaches.
Prior to DeWine’s press briefing on Thursday, Columbus City Schools announced it was suspending ALL sports and extra-curricular activities, effective last Friday.
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.
But indeed it is DeWine’s decision on “full contact” sports — particularly football — that the OHSAA is especially interested in.
DeWine will have, or is scheduled to have, another press briefing on Tuesday (Aug. 18) at 2 p.m.
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