OHSAA firm on fall start

High school athletic associations in 15 states and the District of Columbia have postponed the start of fall sports in their jurisdictions in the last two weeks, including California and New Mexico, which have gone so far as to push fall sports to 2021.

But 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.

As of Thursday night, 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 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 spring sports seasons were 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.

At least for the OHSAA, it’s still “game on” for fall sports.