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DeWine: Ability to have high school contact sports this fall depends on the 'next couple of weeks'

Posted at 5:12 PM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 15:40:52-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Lt. Jon Husted had a potential playbook for a high school football season on his iPad Wednesday afternoon.

But he and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine weren't ready for the kickoff just yet.

A day after the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association released a 38-page season proposal that addressed health and safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, DeWine was twice asked about fall sports including football.

"I know everyone would like to know," DeWine said at a news conference. "Everyone would like predictability. But, our ability to have fall sports - all sports that we want to see – our ability to go back to school in a safe way, it really depends on what we're going to do in the next couple of weeks. And so we've got to have everybody wear a mask."

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Aug. 1 is the start of official Ohio High School Athletic Association fall sports practice.

"I don't have a crystal ball," DeWine said. "I can't predict. But, it's within our hands what we do in the next few weeks."

The OHSAA sent a memo to member schools after DeWine's news conference that served as a "Return to Play" guidance document.

"The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has presented the OHSAA with a myriad of challenges," OHSAA interim executive director Bob Goldring said.

The guidance document, Goldring said, received support from the OHSAA Board of Directors and feedback from the Ohio Joint Advisory Committee on Sports Medicine, the National Federation of State High School Associations, the Ohio Department of Health along with support from Husted's office.

The memo included links for the return-to-play recommendations, student-athlete acknowledgment/pledge form and recommendations and/or considerations for every fall sport.

"The OHSAA fully intends to support its member schools and the student-athletes who desire to compete in interscholastic athletics and will continue to assess all areas as more information becomes available," Goldring said.

Boys and girls golf teams are scheduled to start their seasons Aug. 5 with girls tennis starting Aug. 7.

That is followed by boys and girls soccer, girls volleyball and field hockey (Aug. 21) along with football and boys and girls cross country (Aug. 24).

Three of the OHSAA's fall sports already have been declared by DeWine as low contact, including boys and girls golf, girls tennis and volleyball. Those sports can have competitions between schools and are set for their respective seasons at this point.

Cross country, field hockey, soccer and football have not yet been approved by the governor to have regular competitions between schools.

DeWine addressed a question that was specific to the state football coaches association proposal.

"We're going to be giving them additional guidance based upon what we're seeing in Ohio," DeWine said. "Before we do that we're going to be having conversations with them. We're not ready to announce that yet. Look, everybody is concerned about young people, concerned about contact sports."

Husted acknowledged the governor's office has looked at the coaches association proposal.

"They've done some great work, very helpful to informing our conversations, so thanks to them," he said.

DeWine said the governor's office will be in consultation with the schools and coaches.

"Whatever those sports are, we know how important they are," DeWine said. "But, frankly, we've got to get a little closer to this in time. We know that training is going on. We know that practices have been taking place. We understand the timeline. But, we want to see where we are. We need to get a little closer before we can make any kind of decision in regard to that."

The OHSAA has 815 member high schools and 760 seventh- to eighth-grade schools in the association for this upcoming 2020-21 school year.

The OHSAA represents over 350,000 students competing in 26 sanctioned sports – 13 for boys and 13 for girls.

Ohio is the fourth-largest state for high school sports participation behind California, Texas and New York.