The Ohio High School Athletic Association reiterated Friday in a memo to member schools that all fall sports can begin practice on Saturday and also said contact sports will be postponed (presumably to 2021) if state government officials don’t permit games by Sept. 4.
The OHSAA reiterated Friday in its fourth memo to schools in the last two weeks that fall sports can begin official preseason practice Saturday — two days after the state posted a one-day record for new coronavirus cases with 1,733. That practice start date has been set since last year and has not been altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But in the last part of a two-page memo, the association for the first time confirmed a possibility that football, soccer and cross country (which state officials have labeled as “contact sports”) could be postponed to 2021 if competitions between schools aren’t approved by Sept. 4.
If Gov. Mike DeWine and state government officials don’t allow contact sports to play games by Sept. 4, the OHSAA said those sports will be postponed. Volleyball, golf and tennis — which have been labeled as “non-contact sports” — wouldn’t be affected. Those sports have been granted permission for school vs. school competitions.
If contact sports are postponed, the OHSAA said those fall sports along with winter and spring sports would be played with condensed schedules from mid-December through the end of June.
The latest memo comes against the backdrop of school districts and county health boards across the state suspending sports activities.
School districts in several large urban areas have suspended all extracurricular activities and several county health boards — including Montgomery County — have recommended classes at schools in their counties be conducted online and no extracurricular activities take place.
The OHSAA is in the minority of states allowing high school fall sports to start as scheduled. Athletic associations in 27 states have delayed the start of fall sports, while six states (including Illinois) have postponed football and other fall contact sports to 2021.
In Friday’s memo, the OHSAA also said if fall sports begin and are stopped but later allowed to resume, seasons will restart with modified schedules. The association also said it will “govern and issue consequences” if COVID-19 related requirements aren’t followed by some schools.
“It is important to keep athletic activity moving forward,” Dan Leffingwell, president of the OHSAA Board of Directors and superintendent of the Noble Local Schools in Sarahsville, said in Friday’s memo. “And with that, we believe our member schools provide our student‐athletes with the safest possible environment to return to play and that our school programs are the best avenue to help students learn lifelong lessons and provide social, emotional and physical benefits that other programs cannot.
“Moving forward allows those students to continue to be engaged with their school coaches and teammates. Membership data also supports this decision. If we were to delay, our students will find opportunities to compete in sports through non‐school programs that may not be focused on safety and are not education‐based.
“Should data on COVID‐19 change and/or the Governor’s Office makes changes to our plan, we have flexibility that would allow us to look at implementing other models for our seasons.”
Since early July, non-contact sports have been permitted to conduct scrimmages and contests against opponents. Golf is the first sport allowed to begin regular-season play; teams can begin playing matches Wednesday.
The state government and the OHSAA haven’t allowed contact sports to play games since COVID-19 group gathering restrictions were put in place in mid-March, save for one week earlier in July when the state temporarily lifted restrictions, mostly so that The Basketball Tournament could be played in Columbus.
The ban on contact sports games was reinstated after TBT’s conclusion and remains. The OHSAA said in a memo on Tuesday scrimmages between contact sports teams aren’t allowed and also said it doesn’t anticipate they’ll be allowed before regular-season play is scheduled to begin in late August.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.