The Ohio High School Athletic Association officially announced the cancelation of spring sports on Tuesday and said it’s already begun looking at issues regarding how the COVID 19 pandemic — and efforts to slow the spread of the virus — will impact fall sports.
The announcement of the cancelation of spring activities had been expected following Gov. Mike DeWine’s Monday announcement that the state’s school building closure would extend through the rest of the academic year. The OHSAA had previously said it would cancel spring sports if the closure was extended.
The OHSAA postponed the start of spring sports in mid-March following the state’s closure of school buildings. Earlier this month, the organization released a plan for abbreviated spring seasons in case the school building closure expired in May.
With the extension of the school building closure, the OHSAA was left with no choice but to cancel spring sports.
With spring sports canceled, the organization is looking at many other issues surrounding summer activities and fall sports.
No-contact period likely to affect summer camps
Snodgrass said the organization will likely extend its current no-contact period, which prohibits any in-person contact between coaches and athletes. A no-contact period would render any summer camps or workouts impossible.
Summer is usually a busy preparation time for teams. Teams in most sports are generally allowed 10 summer coaching days, in which coaches can instruct players. These days are used for practices and for camps like football 7-on-7s, all-day basketball shootouts and volleyball summer leagues.
In addition, most athletes participate in other school-affiliated programs in the summer, including open gyms and weight and fitness training.
Snodgrass said the extension of the no-contact period could be determined if the school building closure is extended.
“A lot of the what-ifs in June and July are dependent upon whether (school) facilities will be open,” Snodgrass said.
The OHSAA implemented a no-contact period in mid-March, which is currently set to run through May 4. Snodgrass said he expects the association will extend that period and added it conducted a survey of school administrators on that and other topics. He said survey results showed administrators are in favor of keeping the no-contact period in place as long as the school building closure is in effect.
Shortening fall sports
Aside from whether or not social distancing guidelines will still be in place in mid-to-late August when fall sports are slated to begin regular-season play, Snodgrass said having no preparation for part or most of the summer could affect the length of the season.
“We have to be very concerned about …the health and safety of our kids being ready to participate going into August,” Snodgrass said. “It’s not just football, it’s all fall sports.”
Snodgrass said shortening the length of fall sports seasons is an option.
“I just talked to a Division I college today outside of Ohio, and they’re already talking about an eight-game (football), schedule, at least in their conference,” Snodgrass said. “Why? Because they anticipate starting late and narrowing down the season.
“We’re challenging our staff to be creative. For example, we’re used to playing 16 games in soccer. Maybe it’s going to be 10.”
Fall is the busiest time of year for the OHSAA. The association sanctions 10 sports that take place in fall: football, volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls golf, boys and girls soccer, girls tennis and field hockey.
If restrictions on large group gatherings are still in place this fall, some sports with large numbers of participants in close contact — like football and cross country — would have more issues competing than sports with fewer participants who are normally spread out, like golf and tennis.
Snodgrass said he’s not in favor of canceling all fall sports if some can be played.
“We just had a discussion today (about that),” Snodgrass said. “I had a (teleconference) meeting with Central district superintendents. I think there were 30 or some of them, and they asked that question.
“I don’t have an answer for them. That’s something we’re working on with our sport administrators. I’m not a huge believer that canceling everything is the right thing to do if we don’t have to. That’s something we have to look at, and we will.”
Snodgrass said other issues also being investigated by the association relative to fall sports.
“We’re looking at everything from how kids get physicals in the summer if doctors aren’t available to how artificial surfaces need to be disinfected,” Snodgrass said.
Playing without spectators?
Several professional sports leagues and collegiate leagues are reportedly considering playing games without spectators this fall, and Snodgrass said he’s not opposed to Ohio high schools doing similar if it’s the only way to conduct a season.
“That’s a more of a challenge for the schools than it is for us, because for regular-season events, that’s more a property of the schools than for us,” Snodgrass said. “Tournament events are what we own and (regulate).”
How will eligibility be addressed?
Snodgrass said another big issue the association is looking at going into the fall is athletes’ academic eligibility. The transition to online teaching is affecting grading systems at districts across the state, with many going to a simple pass/fail grading system for the final quarter of the academic year.
Snodgrass said the association is also considering the possibility of making all athletes eligible.
“It’s very interesting,” Snodgrass said. “We don’t have the authority to change the bylaws to students’ eligibility ourselves; only the schools can change (the bylaws). We may have to go back to our member schools on that.
“… On May 1, (our member schools) will be in the process of voting on bylaw changes for this year. We do that every year. One of the bylaw proposals is to allow (OHSAA administrators) to alter a bylaw. That would give us the ability to alter (eligibility requirements).”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.