DAYTON — Jackson Center’s boys basketball team has advanced to regional games six out of the last nine years and crowd size at its tournament contests hasn’t waned as deep postseason runs have become frequent. No matter how far away from Jackson Center the team’s games are, thousands usually flock to its tournament games.
The flocking for the 2019-2020 season is done.
The OHSAA announced new restrictions late Tuesday evening on who can attend upcoming tournament events. The restrictions have been put in place as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Athletes participating in events will be allowed to designate four family members to buy tickets while coaches and administrators will be allowed to designate two relatives to buy tickets.
No other spectators will be allowed; no other tickets will be sold.
That means tournament contests will be played in front of extremely small crowds. Attendance for basketball games won’t be much over 100 spectators.
“It’ll be like a scrimmage game or something in the summer,” Jackson Center coach Scott Elchert said after the team’s regional semifinal victory in front of a large crowd on Tuesday at UD Arena. Restrictions go in place on Wednesday and will be in effect when the Tigers return to Dayton to face Columbus Wellington in a regional final on Friday.
“I think it’s a shame. I think it’s disappointing. I’m not calling people out, but I think sometimes common sense has got to prevail. We live in an overreactive society; I’ll leave it at that. We live in an overreactive society on numerous things. Without being a medical professional myself, I sense that we have some of that (overreaction) going on.”
The OHSAA’s decision came a little after 24 hours following the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ohio were announced by Governor Mike DeWine. DeWine declared a state of emergency for the state as a result of the cases, which are all in Cuyahoga County. A fourth confirmed case involving a Stark County man was announced by DeWine on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, DeWine said indoor sporting events in the state at every level — high school, collegiate and even professional — would go on as scheduled but recommended they do so without the majority of fans in attendance in an effort to slow down the spread of the virus, which had killed 32 people in the United States as of Wednesday morning. DeWine said Wednesday that recommendation would become an official order in the next couple of days.
OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass said a press conference on Tuesday the decision to severely limit fan access was not an easy one for the association.
“We are emotional,” Snodgrass said. “The amount of work that our staff puts, we have employees that work diligently every single day to make the experience of a lifetime for our student-athletes. We have some (employees) that have participated in the state tournaments. We have some that have gone on to great things … but they remember their high school days. We’re very emotional about it, too.
“I want our fans, who are the lifeblood of what we do, to understand that. If we could have it any other way … we had our fingers crossed. We were hoping.”
Anna’s boys basketball team will be the first area squad to play in front of a restricted crowd when it faces Dayton Stebbins in a Division III regional semifinal on Wednesday at UD Arena. If victorious, the squad will return on Saturday for a regional final.
Fort Loramie and Minster’s girls basketball teams will play in Division IV state semifinals on Thursday night at Ohio State University’s St. John Arena in Columbus and if victorious will play return Saturday for the state final. In addition, Anna’s girls basketball team will play in a D-III semifinal on Friday and if victorious will return Saturday for the championship game.
The state wrestling tournament is scheduled to be held Friday through Sunday at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center while the state ice hockey tournament will be held at Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus on Saturday and Sunday.
Below are the specific restrictions for each tournament, in addition to refund information for those who have already purchased tickets.
• Previously purchased tickets to be refunded
Tickets previously purchased before Tuesday’s announcement and complimentary tickets for upcoming state tournaments are now void. New tickets will be sold per the instructions below, per sport, with specific details being sent to the member schools.
Tickets purchased online via credit card will be refunded by Ticketmaster to the same credit card. Tickets purchased via check will be refunded in approximately four to five weeks. Tickets purchased with cash at the Ohio State University ticket office can be returned for a refund on-site.
• Girls basketball
Student-athletes on the 16 state qualifying teams will each be permitted to designate four family members who will be permitted to purchase single-session tickets at St. John Arena. Coaches and administrators of the state tournament teams will each be permitted to designate two family members to purchase tickets. Tickets will only be sold as single-session tickets.
• Boys basketball
Beginning Wednesday, student-athletes on the participating school tournament roster (players and cheerleaders) can designate four family members to purchase a ticket for the game. Coaches for that team can each designate two family members to purchase tickets. School administrators and the bus driver each receive one free ticket for themselves and a guest. Each regional site will work with the participating schools regarding its team list and ticket sales process, which will be cash only at entry.
State qualifying student-athletes will each be permitted to designate four family members who will be permitted to purchase all-session ticket books. State tournament coaches will each be permitted to designate two family members to purchase tickets. Tickets will only be sold as all-session ticket books.
Student-athletes on the four state qualifying teams will each be permitted to designate four family members who will be permitted to purchase single-session tickets at Nationwide Arena. State tournament coaches and school administrators will each be permitted to designate two family members to purchase tickets. Tickets will only be sold as single-session ticket books.
Troy Daily News sports editor Josh Brown contributed to this article. Brown can be reached at email@example.com.