No matter the medium, the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s message over the last two weeks remains steadfast.
As of mid-July, it’s “Game On” for fall sports.
Of course, and even as the OHSAA admits, it can all quickly change in one fell swoop.
The OHSAA — originally explained by interim Executive Director Bob Goldring in a memo to member schools on July 7 — is planning on not only having fall sports for 2020, but intends to start them on schedule.
Official practices for fall sports are set to begin on Aug. 1, with the first weekend of Ohio high school football being the last weekend in August.
“The OHSAA Office is proceeding as if fall sports will occur, meaning practices will begin on Aug. 1 and we will conduct our usual series of tournaments in 10 fall sports. As you all have seen during this pandemic, those plans can be modified or cancelled quickly,” Goldring wrote.
One week later, in an association statement on Tuesday following a teleconference with a small number of statewide media members, Ohio’s governing body for high school sports doubled down on that plan.
The OHSAA went so far as to post that official statement on its Twitter account, stating “OHSAA is moving forward with our normal fall sports seasons, and as always, each school will determine which sports they sponsor.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s office has already declared three sports — boys and girls golf, girls tennis and volleyball —as “low contact”, “meaning those sports can have competitions between schools”.
In the July 7 memo, Goldring wrote that DeWine’s office announced that volleyball is now “viewed as a non-contact sport, something which was previously a gray area”.
But the OHSAA’s other four fall sports —cross country, field hockey, football and soccer — “have not yet been approved by the Governor to have competitions between schools.”
“Those four sports can practice, but the Governor must approve competition between schools. The OHSAA is working with the Governor’s Office toward safety protocols and permission for those sports this fall.”
Speaking of DeWine’s office, Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted was asked directly during DeWine’s “daily” — or rather twice-weekly— coronavirus response briefing on Thursday about “fall sports”.
To paraphrase, Husted said the state is working directly with schools and the OHSAA, but is still gathering information regarding upcoming decisions on those “full contact” sports.
Therefore, no decisions —as some had hoped for or even anticipated —were announced on Thursday.
Husted also admitted that athletic trainers’ roles in the decision-making process for any guidelines or return-to-play mandates has been limited.
Since the outset of the coronavirus threat, the OHSAA has been in near lockstep with the state’s accompanying orders.
Tuesday’s statement 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.
Some county districts, whether for a singular team or an entire athletics program, have also temporarily stopped practices.
But for now, at least for the OHSAA, it’s still “Game On” for fall sports.
The OHSAA sent a memo Friday afternoon to member schools. Here is part of the memo with the fall sports clarity:
Fall Sports Clarity
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to be prepared for change, and that change may occur weekly, daily or by the hour. That being said, the OHSAA Office continues in moving forward with the normal start of the fall sports seasons, meaning practices will begin on August 1 and we will conduct our usual series of tournaments in 10 fall sports. For clarity purposes, here are some additional notes:
Current Fall Non-Contact Sports
NOTE: School vs. school scrimmages, previews, contests, tournaments permitted but no earlier than OHSAA
Golf – 1 scrimmage permitted any time during season; first contest Aug. 5
Girls Tennis – 1 scrimmage permitted after practice begins and prior to first match; first contest Aug. 7
Volleyball – 5 scrimmages and 1 preview permitted after practice begins; first contest Aug. 21
Current Fall Contact Sports
NOTE: School vs. school scrimmages, previews, contests, tournaments permitted but no earlier than OHSAA start dates AND WITH CURRENT OHIO HEALTH DIRECTOR’S ORDER THAT COVID-19 TESTING PROTOCOLS OCCUR
For more details, here is a link to the current Director’s Order:
Cross Country – no scrimmages permitted; first contest Aug. 24 (exception: OHSAA Invitational Aug. 15)
Field Hockey – 5 scrimmages permitted after practice begins; first contest Aug. 21
Football – 2 scrimmages or 1 scrimmage and 1 preview and one Jamboree permitted after a minimum of 7 days of
practice and prior to first game; first contest Aug. 24
Soccer – 4 scrimmages plus 1 preview permitted after practice begins; first contest Aug. 21