COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced Friday afternoon all students entering grades 7-12 will be academically eligible for the 2020 fall sports season.
OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass told WCPO on Friday afternoon there was a significant amount of support from the education-based athletics governing body for the adjustment to the regulation given the unique circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Just with that wide range of how grading and learning was taking place, I just felt strongly that there was just no way to look anybody in the eye and say, 'You're ineligible and you're not,'" Snodgrass told WCPO.
Snodgrass said he doesn't recall another time in recent OHSAA history that this sort of adjustment was made for academic eligibility for a particular sports season.
Snodgrass said the adjustment was announced Friday afternoon because the OHSAA didn't want to reveal any insight earlier this spring to avoid a risk of a student not completing academic requirements for the 2019-20 school year.
"We tried to do our part," Snodgrass said. "That was at the request of several principals and superintendents."
Even though the OHSAA regulations do allow for pass/fail grades to be accounted for in eligibility, Snodgrass said the adjustment was the most realistic path.
The OHSAA board of directors discussed the issue last week. Wyoming athletic director Jan Wilking said there was overwhelming support for the decision in attempting to make an equitable standard.
"You don't know what resources kids had," Wilking said. "I mean there was so many unknowns."
Snodgrass said the discussion about eligibility took place when remote learning started earlier this spring.
"We had schools in some cases that obviously used pass/fail," Snodgrass said. "We had some that were a lot more lenient on their grading. And they had to be. I had another school that told me they were trying to make it hard line to keep kids engaged, which is understandable. And they went from, I believe, it was 52 Fs in their school in the third grading period to 350 Fs in the fourth grading period. And understandably to try to keep the kids engaged."
Turpin athletic director Tony Hemmelgarn was in full support of the adjustment to the OHSAA regulation.
"Eight hundred school districts all approaching the last two months their own way," he said. "I'm just glad they waited until today. Many kids stayed engaged because of fall sports."
Cincinnati Public Schools athletics manager Josh Hardin agreed with the decision.
"Totally get it and makes sense for the academic side," he said. "So many inconsistencies across the state from what districts were doing."
The OHSAA also announced no transfer student, including those who participated in a 2020 spring sport scrimmage, will be subject to the transfer consequence in spring 2021.
However, the student still will be held accountable to the transfer consequence for any fall or winter sport in which he/she may have participated during the 12 months preceding his/her transfer.
The OHSAA also said the requirement for the annual Pre-Participation Physical Evaluation every 13 months should be continued for students in grades 7-12.
The OHSAA had 816 member high schools and approximately 760 seventh- to eighth-grade schools that belonged to 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).