COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio High School Athletic Association board of directors reaffirmed their position Friday that the fall sports season will go forward as planned as official practice begins Saturday during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is important to keep athletic activity moving forward,” said Dan Leffingwell, president of the OHSAA Board of Directors and superintendent of the Noble Local Schools in Sarahsville.
“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. Moving forward allows those students to continue to be engaged with their school coaches and teammates. Membership data also supports this decision."
Even though some county boards of health in Ohio have recommended no interscholastic athletics be played until Oct. 1 due to the pandemic, the OHSAA continues to maintain athletics is a decision made by individual school districts each school year.
“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 said. “Should data on COVID-19 change and/or the governor’s office makes changes to our plan, we have flexibility that would allow us to look at implementing other models for our seasons.”
Earlier this week, the OHSAA suspended scrimmages for contact sports.
OHSAA interim executive director Bob Goldring said in a memo earlier this week he doesn't anticipate the suspension changing soon and there remains the possibility that no scrimmages will be permitted in the contact sports of football, soccer and field hockey.
On Thursday, Middletown City Schools suspended all fall extracurricular activities including athletics.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine did not address interscholastic athletics in a news conference Thursday.
"We are at a critical stage with this virus," DeWine said July 28. "We don't know which way it's going to go. If we knew where it was going to be in four weeks, in three weeks we would be in a much better position to make a decision in regard to sports."
DeWine's next news conference is scheduled for Aug. 4.
Three of the OHSAA's fall sports already have been declared by DeWine's office as low contact, including boys and girls golf, girls tennis and volleyball. Those sports can have competitions between schools.
Cross country, field hockey, soccer and football are considered contact sports and are not allowed to have scrimmages.
The board of directors also developed contingency plans Friday for this fall sports season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If contact sports are not approved for school versus school competition by Sept. 4 by the Ohio governor's office, 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 non-contact sports would move forward as scheduled.
If the fall seasons begin and, for some reason, are stopped but then resume, the OHSAA has plans to move to a modified fall sports season.
If contact sports are approved for school-versus-school competition, the OHSAA is prepared to set COVID-19-related requirements for schools to follow for competitions as requested by the governor's office. The OHSAA will govern and issue consequences for the violation of these requirements.
Conversations with the governor's office and state department of health continue regarding the status of field hockey and cross country being placed into the low/non-contact category.
Here is the status of each fall sport:
Low/Non-Contact Sports (Golf, Girls Tennis, Volleyball)
- Official practices may begin on Saturday, Aug. 1.
- School vs. school scrimmages and/or contests will follow per their normal OHSAA permissible dates and regulations.
- Golf – 1 scrimmage permitted any time during season; first contest Aug. 5.
- Girls Tennis – 1 scrimmage permitted after practice begins and prior to first match; first contest Aug. 7.
- Girls volleyball – 5 scrimmages and 1 preview permitted after practice begins; first contest Aug. 21.
- Official practices will begin on Saturday, Aug. 1, with the normal acclimatization period in place.
- No school vs. school scrimmages are permitted.
- School vs. school contests will follow per their normal OHSAA permissible dates and regulations with a target date of the week of Monday, Aug. 24. (Note: This date is subject to change and subject to the approval of the Governor’s Office/Ohio Department of Health and with the stipulation that COVID-19 testing will not be required.)
Other Contact Sports (Soccer, Field Hockey, Cross Country)
- Practices will begin on Saturday, Aug. 1, with the normal acclimatization period in place for cross country.
- No school vs. school scrimmages are permitted in soccer or field hockey.
- School vs. school contests will follow per their normal OHSAA permissible dates and regulations with a target date of Friday, Aug. 21, for soccer and field hockey and Monday, Aug. 24, for cross country. (Note: These dates are subject to change and subject to the approval of the Governor’s Office/Ohio Department of Health and with the stipulation that COVID-19 testing will not be required.)
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.