Game on, says DeWine: Ohio Governor clears contact sports for fall season

It’s game on for fall’s contact sports.

Tuesday afternoon, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine made his long-awaited announcement that he would be issuing an order for all sports in Ohio — including the contact sports of football, soccer and field hockey, which to this point had not been permitted to hold contests between schools — to move forward this fall. The order, which will be released in full in the coming days, will go into effect on Friday, just in time for the scheduled start of boys and girls soccer.

It will be the first time that the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s contact sports have been allowed to hold events since winter sports’ postseason tournaments were put on hold and later canceled in early March.

DeWine said that the order provides the best guidance that can be provided by health experts on how to move forward safely attempting to hold contact sporting events while still limiting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying “the caveat always is … it depends on how it is executed.”

“We know that, just as going back to school in person does increase the risk of spread, we know that sports do, particularly contact sports,” DeWine said. “Further, we know that … the more spread there is in a community, the more spread there’s going to be in the school, and the higher risk there’s going to be to the students, and certainly to the athletes, as well.

“On the other hand, we all know the importance of sports. Sports matters and makes a difference. Sports provides … discipline, brings order, structure in the lives of student-athletes, and certainly brings joy to those athletes and their families, as well. Our order provides what we hope is the best guidance to play sports safely as that can be played in the era of COVID-19.”

DeWine did give schools the option to have their fall sports season in the spring, saying “this order simply allows sports to move forward. That season doesn’t have to be now.” He also said that “only family members or individuals very close to the student-athletes” would be allowed as spectators at games.

Lt. Governor Jon Husted added that people “must be accountable. In addition to the health department, the OHSAA will hold schools, athletes and parents accountable. They will have site inspectors at contests to ensure that the rules are being followed.”

“Sports are about a lot of things, but they are about hope. But hope itself is not a plan,” DeWine said. “It’s not a strategy. We ask those who are making the decision to play, we wish you every success in the world in keeping COVID away. Look at our plan and try to do the best you can to execute it.”