This past week, the Ohio High School Athletic Association issued guidelines for its seven fall sports, which will all be allowed to begin official preseason practice on Saturday.
There’s just one problem still as we enter the final week of July.
The state, specifically Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, has yet to make a final decision on “full contact” sports —especially football — as DeWine deals daily with the continuing coronavirus threat.
The beginning of fall sports comes amid the backdrop of more Ohio counties — precisely a quarter of the entire state to be exact— having been designated as “red.”
There are four total levels in the newly-created Ohio Public Health Advisory System, with presently 23 counties at a Level 3 with one county — Allen — considered “on watch” for being bumped to the highest and most severe, which is Level 4.
In the memo the OHSAA sent Wednesday, interim executive director Bob Goldring acknowledged the risks associated with the coronavirus —and that participation in athletics activities remains up to individual school districts.
“The risk of coronavirus transmission will still be present to some degree as interscholastic athletics activities begin in August and will continue until there is a widely available vaccine or therapeutic care, possibly through the 2020-21 school year,” Goldring wrote.
“While the science about COVID-19 is evolving, it will be important to remain vigilant and nimble to respond to new developments. Students and their families, along with school personnel, must recognize these risks and implement best practices to reasonably mitigate these risks. Participation in school activities is voluntary and every individual will need to evaluate the risk versus the benefits of athletics participation.
“Those immunocompromised students and staff, or those who live with family members with elevated health concerns, should evaluate associated risks of participation and may choose not to participate.”
Generally speaking, the guidelines include social distancing and the requirement of face coverings while not on the field or court of play, plus “reducing or greatly eliminating unnecessary travel; reducing or eliminating sharing of common equipment, and reducing or eliminating contact frequency with student-athletes from schools and non-interscholastic programs outside of each school’s league/conference or normal competition sphere.”
As of Thursday, “the Ohio Department of Health was in the process of developing guidance for contact sport inter-team competitive play, and the OHSAA will share it with member schools when complete. The existing guidance permits non-contact sport practices and competitive play, and contact sport practices and intra-team scrimmages but NOT inter-team (i.e., other schools/teams) scrimmages or competitive play at this time.”
Either way, although Aug. 1 officially remains the fall sports start date, the OHSAA knows a final decision is up to DeWine.
Since the outset of the coronavirus threat, the OHSAA has been in near lockstep with the state’s accompanying orders.
Wednesday’s memo was the latest in a series of communications from and actions by the OHSAA, which included an April 20 announcement that all 2020 spring sports seasons were officially canceled.
Since then, the fate of fall sports has been the primary focus, as programs were initially allowed to resume practices in various capacities — following the OHSAA lifting its mandatory dead period, effective the day after Memorial Day.
But this already abnormal summer, especially since Independence Day, has resulted in several statewide school districts stopping those workouts —as confirmed coronavirus cases continue to spike.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports.