PORTSMOUTH — A year later, and six months after vaccines initially rolled out in response to curbing the coronavirus threat, the hope was we wouldn’t be still having this discussion.
But, with official Ohio High School Athletic Association practices for fall sports beginning on Aug. 1, inquiries into health and safety protocols and requirements as they relate to COVID-19 and the upcoming seasons are still flooding the OHSAA’s office.
That’s according to an Administrator Update on Friday from the OHSAA to its member schools, as the coronavirus situation sees a spike in cases in Ohio — fueled by the contagious and quite dangerous Delta variant.
Unlike last July and into August and even September when the OHSAA Executive Director’s Office offered almost daily updates on its ability to have fall sports seasons, Friday’s memo was the first in exactly an entire month — and only the third since Memorial Day.
Right off the top, the OHSAA expected no new major mandates, but that “we will share with the membership the Ohio Department of Health’s updated guidance and recommendations, which is expected to be available soon.”
On Monday, during a briefing led by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the ODH indeed offered guidance for Ohio’s schools for the upcoming academic year — and the OHSAA is usually one to follow along with and abide by that guidance and those recommendations.
The ODH’s “official guidance” for schools is set to be released no later than Tuesday, but generally speaking, Vanderhoff emphasized for all eligible students and staff to get vaccinated, and for any and all unvaccinated individuals to wear masks and continue practicing social distancing.
As for actual academic eligibility entering this fall sports season, the OHSAA memo included “important Bylaw 4-4 (scholarship) reminders” — as “all student-athletes are eligible, with respect to their OHSAA scholarship eligibility, for the first grading period of the 2021-22 school year (unless your school chose to enforce your own scholarship standard or unless the student-athlete failed to meet your self-established minimum GPA standard).
Fall and winter student-athletes need to be certain they are scheduled for at least five credits at the high school level, or four classes at the Junior High level.
If an athlete does not pass the five-credit/four-class standard in the first grading period this coming fall, then he or she will become ineligible at the start of the fifth school day of the second grading period.
An OHSAA memo has been created for student-athletes to remind them to get scheduled for enough credits and/or classes during the first grading period of the 2021-22 school year, which can be viewed and obtained at https://bit.ly/3y725il.
The remainder of Friday’s three-page memo offered other administrative housekeeping items, such as dates and information for upcoming conferences, meetings and workshops.
The only repetitive information appearing this summer: “In the sports of baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball and volleyball, coaches may coach their own student-athletes on non-school teams between June 1 and July 31, 2021 without restriction (this was previously known as the 10-day rule).”
Participation can not be mandatory, and in football, only non-contact participation is permitted.
The mandatory no-contact period for coaches in the sports of baseball, basketball and softball returns on Aug. 1 (2021) and remains through Aug. 31 —when “any coach, paid or volunteer, approved by the Board of Education to coach in those sports is prohibited from providing coaching, providing instruction or supervising conditioning and physical fitness programs or open gyms to members of a school team in their sport. This includes any type of tryouts in or out of school for purposes of non-interscholastic competition.”
Finally, for the 2021-22 academic year, schools are permitted to charge admission for interscholastic scrimmages — as the OHSAA has not yet determined if this regulation will become permanent.
And, unlike last season for the “full contact” sports, there will be inter-squad scrimmages prior to the first soccer matches or football games in mid-to-late August.
The 10-week regular season — for football — begins the week of Aug. 16, with the top 16 schools in each region qualifying for the playoffs that begin the final weekend in October.
With Aug. 1 representing the official starting date for fall sports coaching, “each school and/or school district shall determine if they choose to start on that date or later.”
At the Jan. 14 OHSAA Board of Directors meeting, a recommendation was approved that permits schools to complete the first two days of the football acclimatization period in July.
Reach Portsmouth Daily Times sports editor Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports.