OHSAA: Fall still on track

On Friday, the Ohio High School Athletic Association reaffirmed that fall sports is on track to start on time.

When they do, though, things will look a lot different in the Miami Valley League.

OHSAA Interim Executive Director Bob Goldring emailed an update to member schools early Friday afternoon, reiterating the organization’s often-stated plan to move forward with the fall high school sports season, with practices for both low/non-contact and contact sports permitted to open up on Saturday.

But later Friday night, a message was posted on the MVL’s website — the home league of Troy, Piqua and Tippecanoe — stating that the teams in the league would play a league-only schedule in all sports this fall.

The MVL, whose members also include Butler, Greenville, Sidney, Fairborn, Xenia, West Carrollton and Stebbins, was formed in 2019 when that group of 10 teams left the Greater Western Ohio Conference. Earlier this week, the GWOC made the same announcement, going with a league-only schedule in the fall.

“The Miami Valley League superintendents met today to discuss the current status of fall interscholastic athletics,” the press release said. “Given that the current COVID-19 pandemic is going to be with us for the foreseeable future, it was decided that it is in our collective best interest to compete among MVL schools only during the regular season.

“This decision will allow membership to implement protocols and guidelines for all member schools to follow and allow for a more controlled environment for the student-athletes to safely return to competition. Decisions like this are never easy, but this gives our students the best opportunity to have a season, given the mandates that must be met and the uncharacteristic times we face.”

Earlier in the day, the OHSAA’s memo stated the importance of ensuring interscholastic sports.

“It is important to keep athletic activity moving forward. 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,” said Dan Leffingwell, president of the OHSAA Board of Directors and superintendent of the Noble Local Schools in Sarahsville. “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.”

Leffingwell also reiterated, though, that the situation could still change if the pandemic worsens or if Ohio Governor Mike DeWine were to issue new mandates or orders that affect sports.

“Should data on COVID-19 change and/or the governor’s office make changes to our plan, we have the flexibility that would allow us to look at implementing other models for our seasons,” he said.

Currently, the low/non-contact sports are cleared to begin their seasons with play against other school districts outside their own, with boys and girls golf on Aug. 5, girls tennis on Aug. 7 and volleyball on Aug. 21. Golf is permitted to have one scrimmage anytime during the season, tennis may have one scrimmage after practice begins and before the first match, and volleyball can have five scrimmages and one preview after practice begins.

The contact sports of football, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country and field hockey, though, are not permitted to scrimmage schools from outside their own district, nor are they cleared for regular-season competition yet. The OHSAA is still targeting dates of Aug. 21 for soccer and field hockey and Aug. 24 for football and cross country to be cleared for competition.

Should contact sports not be approved for school vs. school competition by Sept. 4, the fall contact sports and remaining winter and spring sports “will move to a condensed schedule that will take place between mid-December and the end of June. Fall no-contact sports would move forward as scheduled,” according to the release. There are also plans for the possibility that fall sports begin, stop and then resume, as well as ongoing conversations between the OHSAA and the governor’s office to move cross country and/or field hockey to the low/non-contact category.

“The OHSAA continues with conversations with the governor’s office on its plans to ensure we are in concert,” the release said.