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Ohio governor's office expected to address sports in greater detail this week

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Posted at 7:00 AM, Aug 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-11 10:58:08-04

CINCINNATI — A Cincinnati-area high school football coach hopped into his car early Monday afternoon wanting answers.

The season starts in two weeks. Football has yet to be cleared for school-versus-school competition.

Was there a definite purpose for the practice he just completed? What will Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine say in his Tuesday afternoon news conference, during which he promised to discuss reopening schools?

There were also conflicting reports about the Big Ten and concern over a possible trickle-down effect within high school football.

RELATED: Join the Cincinnati area high school sports Facebook group

The social media wheel spun round and round Monday afternoon. It was just another day of sports information overload during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Athletic directors across the state know the feeling. Many worked to re-arrange football schedules Monday often with conference considerations in mind.

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The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced a major plan Aug. 7 for the high school football season this fall during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They wonder when football, soccer and possibly field hockey teams can fully start their seasons. They also wonder about spectator capacity, among other issues.

"Does every athletic director wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning with this stuff going through their minds?" Mariemont AD Tom Nerl said.

Three days after the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced a major plan for the high school football season, several Cincinnati-area schools met Monday to organize a six-game regular-season schedule.

With the clock ticking toward Week 1 in football, let's take a look at what we know as the OHSAA starts its first full week of the fall sports season:

What is the status of the fall sports season?

Let's first start with the low/non-contact sports as defined by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. Boys and girls golf along with girls tennis started their seasons last week. Girls volleyball is scheduled to start Aug. 21, while boys and girls cross country is Aug. 24.

Boys and girls soccer, field hockey and football are defined as contact sports and have not been approved for school versus school competition. The soccer and field hockey seasons start Aug. 21 while football is scheduled to start the week of Aug. 24.

What will the Ohio governor's office say about contact sports today?

Eve Mueller, deputy director of communications for DeWine's office, told WCPO Monday that sports issues are expected to be addressed in more detail this week.

With a lot of college football speculation taking the spotlight Monday, some have interpreted this a number of ways. The truth is, high school sports is different.

The governor's office continues to be in favor of allowing student-athletes to compete in high school this fall with the precautions in place.

A tweet from Husted's personal account Monday was applauded by the OHSAA.

"What's the greater risk to people under age 25, canceling in-person learning & extracurriculars (sports) to protect them from COVID or leaving it to chance how they'll fill this time?" Husted tweeted Monday afternoon. "You can't take these things away from young people & expect good (health, academic, life) results."

The Mid-American Conference postponed fall sports on Aug. 8. Some other college conferences have postponed and there is speculation even more are considering their options. How are high school sports allowed to proceed?

The short answer is high school sports are a separate entity based in the community. Does money play a factor in high school sports? Of course. But that's certainly not to the extent that college athletics relies on revenue with media contracts, tickets, travel, licensing and other factors.

Any chance soccer and field hockey programs receive the green light Tuesday to start their high school seasons but football waits another week? Or a different combination thereof?

That could be an option. No one has said that publicly.

Why did the OHSAA release a detailed plan for the upcoming football season without knowing if the governor's office will approve games yet?

It was certainly a carefully worded news release near 5 p.m. Friday (our favorite time). The governor's office recommended the OHSAA shorten the season due to concerns that COVID-19 may spike in early winter, so the OHSAA office and board of directors worked Friday last week to formulate a plan to address that recommendation. The postseason is scheduled to start Oct. 9 and the state championship games would be completed by Nov. 21. Again, everything hinges on DeWine's approval for school-versus-school competition to be allowed.

When was the last time every Ohio high school football team made the postseason?

It's never happened. The playoffs started in 1972. This is already an incredibly unique scenario without one coin toss being completed.

Was Ohio high school football played during the influenza pandemic in 1918?

Yes. Toledo Scott was the 1918 state champion. There were no media polls and certainly no playoff system at the time. Most teams had at least half of their games canceled that season, according to Timothy Hudak's history of the state football championships on the OHSAA website.

Any decision about spectators or capacity for high school sporting events this fall?

Not yet. The OHSAA said it believes that at a minimum parents should be permitted to attend. Is 20% a reasonable assumption, like Ohio State's model at the end of July? Possibly, but we'll have to wait and see.

How are other state associations coping with high school sports?

The National Federation of State High School Associations said Monday 37 states have modified or delay their sports seasons. Thirteen will not play football this fall.

What is the level of concern about winter sports at this point?

One season at a time. However, boys and girls basketball, wrestling and hockey are contact sports, so obviously the governor's office would need to approve school-versus-school competition. Once the fall sports season is figured out, winter will be next.