COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio High School Athletic Association said this weekend it is optimistic that fall sports will begin on schedule.
The education-based athletics governing body also said it appears recommendations from a state advisory group will soon go to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's office that could permit more opportunities for what is defined as contact sports as the state continues to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I anticipate that recommendations will be made in the near future to open opportunities for competitions for contact sports (those defined by the governor’s previous orders)," OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass said in a memo to member schools Friday night.
"While we are not aware of any confirmed dates, the advisory group is working on restrictions/recommendations to permit them."
Although Friday's memo didn't include a definition or a list of contact sports in this case, those may likely include football, basketball, field hockey, ice hockey, soccer, volleyball, wrestling, lacrosse, bowling and gymnastics.
Ultimately, the governor's office will make the determination.
Official OHSAA practice for fall sports begins Aug. 1. The high school golf season begins Aug. 5 while the girls tennis season begins two days later with some other sports to follow. Football is able to start its season Aug. 24.
Snodgrass said the OHSAA has regular communication with the offices of DeWine and Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. However, the OHSAA is "on the outside looking in" as it relates to the adult and youth sports leagues state advisory group.
"While we are not represented on this advisory group or part of its development of guidance, we are able to provide input, but generally after guidance is already developed," Snodgrass said.
Snodgrass said there remains no separate designation between youth/summer sports and school sports.
"In other words, whether it is a group of high school players from School 'A' playing a baseball game or a Pony League team, they all fall under the governor's same orders," Snodgrass said.
Snodgrass also told member schools there is still uncertainty regarding attendance of sporting events for high school sports this fall.
"We anticipate guidance on this soon and, at the time of this communication, we believe attendance at events will likely follow some of the recent guidance for fairgrounds, et cetera, for indoor/outdoor ‘grandstand’ seating," Snodgrass said. "Emphasis remains on 'uncertainty,' but this at least gives you a chance to start looking at ways in which you could structure seating at fall events."
The OHSAA also addressed the transportation topic in its memo for how travel could work for students, teams and marching bands.
"It is way too early to give guidance, but we will provide it as soon as we know," Snodgrass said.
On May 21, the Ohio governor's office and the OHSAA announced all high school sports could begin individual skills training after Memorial Day at the school facilities at the discretion of the respective school districts.
Schools have been permitted to open their facilities for competitions in "low/non-contact sports" (golf, tennis, swimming, baseball, softball, track and field and cross country) and for skills training/conditioning for "contact sports."
"The efforts by school districts, administrators and coaches to do this safely is commendable and an important step in returning fall sports on schedule," Snodgrass said.
Skills training is defined and the mandated and recommended restrictions are posted on the state's Department of Health website.
The OHSAA had 816 member high schools and approximately 760 seventh- to eighth-grade schools in the association in the 2019-20 school year. The OHSAA represents over 350,000 students competing in 26 sanctioned sports – 13 for boys and 13 for girls.