PORTSMOUTH — At long last, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has finally decided regarding fall “full contact” sports.
However, it’s going to be up to individual Ohio school districts to decide when — and or even if — those “full contact” sports start, can continue and perhaps most importantly, make it across the proverbial finish line.
During his Tuesday coronavirus press briefing, DeWine said that fall “full contact” sports —which have been practicing since Aug. 1 in anticipation for a season — can proceed forward, on time and as scheduled.
“I think by what we’re doing today, we’re empowering our young people, we’re empowering the parents, we’re empowering the schools,” he said. “These are all tough decisions. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer. We just ask everyone to weigh everything to make the best individual decision for that particular child, for that team, for that school. Sports matter and make a difference. Any person not playing sports will find something else to do with their time. Hope itself is not a plan. It’s not a strategy. We all should have hope, but we should also have a plan. If this goes the wrong way, we can shut all of this down. We would ask you, those who are making the decision to play to look at the plan we have and try the best you can to execute that.”
As part of that plan, the number of spectators will be drastically reduced — and will be limited to immediate family members of student-athletes, or those considered “close” to them.
That issue, too, will be one left to be sorted out by individual school districts.
“We will not have spectators other than family members or people very close to that particular child,” said DeWine.
An announcement on fall sports has been anticipated for weeks, especially within the last few days, as DeWine and Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted worked with Ohio High School Athletic Association officials throughout the past weekend on any detailed plans.
DeWine was asked specifically about fall sports during the media’s question-and-answer session on Thursday as part of that press briefing.
He hinted that “full contact” sports would actually take place despite the continued coronavirus threat.
Hence, as he restated, the announcement was coming Tuesday.
Under an official Ohio Department of Health order, which was signed on July 4 and since extended twice, all inter-squad scrimmages and games for “full contact” sports could not take place — “unless ALL teams comply with the requirements outlined in Section 10 of this (ODH) Order 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 was lifted time soon.
That suspension will now be lifted, as the soccer season is officially set to start on Friday — with the first weekend of football throughout the state set for the final weekend of this month.
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 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 had been continuously kicked down the road.
DeWine has been repeatedly asked 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.
That decision came on Tuesday, but also included extensive input —DeWine explained — from “parents”, “schools” and “health departments.”
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 before 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 canceled 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.
On Monday night, Chesapeake became the first known Southeast District school to suspend all fall sports activities, including its 2020 football season.
The Panthers are a member of the Ohio Valley Conference along with Portsmouth High, and the two were scheduled to play at Chesapeake on Sept. 18.
The OVC, on Tuesday, was in the process of revising its initially-revised football schedule.
However, Chesapeake —and any other Ohio school district which has suspended its fall sports programs — will have the option to compete in the spring season, if it so chooses.
On Tuesday and following DeWine’s press briefing, an invitation was extended to school principals, administrators and team coaches to participate in separate but wide-ranging conference calls.
The invitation was a joint effort by DeWine, Husted and staffs from the OHSAA, the ODH, and the Ohio Department of Education — with principals and administrators on the first call, football and soccer coaches on the second, and finally volleyball and cross country coaches on the last.
DeWine and Husted had planned to address school leaders directly and on topics of fall sports and a return to school.
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