The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced in a press conference on Thursday its postponement of winter sports tournaments and start of spring sports remain the same.
The postponements were originally announced last week. Winter sports tournaments remain indefinitely postponed, and the plan to resume spring sports practice on April 6 and begin regular-season competition a week later is still in place.
OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass stressed the status of both is tentative and said “the window of opportunity is closing rapidly” on the possibility of winter sports tournaments being completed.
Snodgrass said he anticipates having a final decision on the resumption of winter sports tournaments by Saturday and could have it Friday.
“There are a lot of factors to when, how and why we may end up having to cancel our winter tournaments,” Snodgrass said. “… Canceling is on the table. Everything is on the table; I would be remiss if I did not say that.”
He said a variety of factors are being considered regarding potential resumption, including site and official availability. He also said the tournaments would most likely have to resume next month; resuming in May or later “probably” can’t happen.
“That’s very problematic on a lot of fronts,” Snodgrass said. “I don’t expect every fan or parent to understand all the reasons why, but nor will I put our schools or venues or sites at risk to explain all that.”
The postponements are a result of efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, which is sweeping the state and nation. Ohio imposed a ban of gatherings of 50 or more people earlier this week to try and slow the spread while Centers for Disease Control recommended earlier this week gatherings of 10 or more people be avoided.
As of Thursday afternoon, the CDC reported there have been nearly 10,500 cases of COVID-19 and 150 deaths attributed to the virus.
“The situations surrounding COVID-19 virus and its effect on everyone’s daily lives is something most in our generation have never dealt with before,” Snodgrass said.
Last week, the OHSAA imposed a no-contact period for all sports through April 5, which also covers the same time period Gov. Mike DeWine ordered school buildings to be closed.
“The governor said in his address yesterday, ‘It is here, and we must be at war with it,’” Snodgrass, who is in frequent communication with DeWine, said. “We have a duty, and I have a duty to help with that, and we are going to do that.”
DeWine said on Sunday school buildings may remain closed for the rest of the academic year. Snodgrass said any decision by DeWine to extend the closure of schools will likely result in the OHSAA further postponing or outright canceling spring sports.
“It is one of the overwriting factors for us,” Snodgrass said. “… I’ve had the freedom to go against (DeWine’s recommendations). …But if he does do it, it’s imperative. We have no choice.”
Snodgrass also addressed several other topics during the press conference:
• Fall sports: Snodgrass said the OHSAA has yet to begin discussions relating to start dates of fall sports being delayed but has begun looking at academic eligibility issues stemming from school closures.
“Our compliance team is working on that and should have answers on that if schools close,” Snodgrass said. “… Someone brought up to me making every kid eligible for fall. That’s on the table.”
• Delaying spring sports tournaments: Snodgrass said it’s possible spring tournaments could be postponed to later in June if spring sports resume.
“We have a little bit of wiggle room, but we have site availability to worry about,” Snodgrass said.
• Electronic contact by coaches to athletes: Despite in-person contact being barred during the current no-contact period, Snodgrass said contact via electronic means is permitted and encouraged.
“We put the no-contact period in immediately to discourage people from getting together,” Snodgrass said. “… We also try to understand the importance of a coach in the mental well-being of our student athletes. As a result of that, we are encouraging giving them workouts via phone or teleconferencing.”
• Resuming some but not all winter sports tournaments: Snodgrass said all winter sports tournaments would likely be canceled “if cancellation is required” and said the association wouldn’t resume some winter tournaments and not others.
“I highly doubt we would play one without the other,” Snodgrass said.
• Financial impact: Snodgrass said the OHSAA will lose $1.4 to $1.5 million in revenue if winter sports tournaments are canceled.
“That’s out of a $19 million total budget,” Snodgrass said. “I think a lot of people don’t realize… we’re a business. We’re nonprofit, but we’re a business. Eighty percent of our revenues are generated from ticket sales.”
• Granting extra year of eligibility: Snodgrass said the OHSAA isn’t considering granting an extra year of eligibility if spring sports are canceled.
“Giving student athletes in high school an extra year of eligibility is more problematic than any other level,” Snodgrass said when asked about the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility. “We don’t redshirt or any of those things. I’m not sure many students would like to stay in high school an extra year anyhow.”
• Feedback from athletes: Snodgrass said he has been contacted by many high school athletes who want spring sports to be played and is hopeful the seasons will happen.
“I’ve heard many athletes… talk about how important (their athletic events) are in their lives,” Snodgrass said. “None of us, myself, will ever underestimate that.
“… But all decisions are not going to be made upon emotions. We take them into consideration but we have to make the best judgements we can make fighting that war, as the governor indicated.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.