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OHSAA sheds light on seasons

HS governing body reiterates fall sports are on track

WARREN — As of Tuesday afternoon, it had been 125 days since the last Ohio High School Athletic Association sanctioned sport was played — boys basketball regional games on March 11.

On July 14, the OHSAA interim commissioner Bob Goldring, who has been on the job for about a week after former commissioner Jerry Snodgrass was dismissed, addressed some of the media during a teleconference.

The main question was: Are fall sports going to happen in one form or another? Are practices starting Aug. 1?

Golding confirmed that the OHSAA was going “full-bore ahead” with practices on Aug. 1 and the seasons following on schedule.

“I don’t think we as an association have any plans to start practice with the idea that we could be delaying our season,” Goldring said.

He emphasized it’s the individual school’s decision on whether sports are played or not.

Goldring said it’s not the OHSAA’s place to say yes or no to sports. He emphasized the organization’s main focus is the tournaments.

“We have to take directive from (Gov. Mike DeWine’s) office and his team and his medical staff if there’s going to be delays in the season, postponements in the season, if there’s going to be items placed in place where only non-contact sports are permitted during the fall,” Goldring said. “Then, we would have to pivot and look at our different options moving forward.

“Right now, to be clear, and this is the message we shared with our membership, we’re looking at starting our practices as they’re normally scheduled on Aug. 1 and our seasons to follow.”

That said, not having football this fall could lead to financial disruption at the OHSAA.

Goldring said if there were no fall sports or had limited fall sports, decisions critical would have to be made. Around 80 percent of the OHSAA’s revenue is from ticket sales.

“We hope to still be a viable option for our member school to provide those opportunities for kids,” he said. “Those are conversations I need to have with our board beginning on Thursday and moving forward. There could be some hard and difficult decisions that will have to be made regarding how we move forward. Some could be about our staff. Some could be about the sports that we offer. If we’re shut down for a while, can we realistically offer the same sports that we always have been? I don’t want to alarm anyone about that. Similar to our options right now, all options have to be put on the table. Quite frankly, it’s a scary situation we’re facing. If it’s any consolation, other state associations are facing the same thing.”

Non-contact is low-contact sports, and three of the OHSAA fall sports — boys and girls golf, girls tennis and volleyball are those type of sports, according to DeWine. The other fall sports — cross country, field hockey, soccer and football — have not been approved by DeWine for competition between schools. Those four can practice, though. The aforementioned three can compete with other schools.

There were other questions regarding: Attendance at games. How fans socially distance in the stands or keep a stadium at a certain capacity. Will the players, band and cheerleaders be included in the count or be tallied separately?

To answer the last question, Goldring said that’s where the OHSAA can help.

“In terms of us setting the percentage or numbers, I don’t see that happening,” he said.

What if fall sports are only non-contact, like most of the spring sports such as tennis, baseball, softball and track and field? When would those athletes have time to prepare? Again, this is a hypothetical situation.

“We want to make sure our student athletes have the proper time period as they do in major league baseball right now for training opportunities before their seasons begin,” Goldring said. “One of the HYPOTHETICAL opportunities for POTENTIALLY moving some spring sports to the fall is with competition currently going on in the summer, it would seem in some of our sports it would be fairly seamless for those student athletes to go into their seasons transferred to the fall since they’re playing those sports.”

How about schools that will be doing all online learning this fall? Are they going to allow sports to be played?

“I don’t think we can step in and say if you’re offering virtually, you can’t have athletics,” Goldring said. “I think that has to be a local decision. We do understand that a lot of schools are going to come to the notion that we can’t offer one and not the other. So, they may not be able to offer their athletic programs, at least for the fall.”

The OHSAA emphasized multiple times their objective to start practice for fall sports on Aug. 1.

If there are disruptions in the season, say football, because of a coronavirus outbreak and some schools cannot play, there are concerns about what happens to teams that cannot get in the eight games needed to be considered for the playoffs.

Goldring said there might be a modification to take the average of a team’s performance to see if they’re eligible for postseason play.

“I don’t want to say that’s definite,” Goldring said. “We need to review it and have our board approve those modifications. A pure guess right now would be making some accommodations.”

Say there’s a golf, tennis or cross country team that can’t make a district tournament, Goldring said he doesn’t foresee that tournament being delayed because a team or two cannot participate.

Volleyball and soccer. How about those sports? They have to move on as well.

“It could be a situation where a lot of brackets vacated with the next team moving on because some school could not participate in our tournament,” Goldring said.

There’s a lot of questions to be answered, but the OHSAA reiterate it plans on starting fall sports practices on Aug. 1.

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