CINCINNATI — Rumors, speculation and sound bites are fuel for social media this summer in Ohio high school sports.
Since mid-March, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on high school sports across the nation. It has been well documented what has transpired in Ohio.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association regional and state boys basketball tournaments, along with state tournaments in girls basketball, hockey and individual wrestling, were canceled.
The entire spring sports season was canceled less than a month afterward.
Several weeks of governor's office news conferences and plenty of OHSAA memos to member schools followed and still continue.
Then, the OHSAA underwent a leadership change in early July.
Despite all the uncertainty this summer, the OHSAA continues to say it is going forward with the upcoming fall sports season for its 815 member high schools and 760 seventh- to eighth-grade schools.
With one week remaining until the start of official practice for fall sports, here is what we know entering the final week of July.
Question: What is the status of the fall sports season?
Answer: The OHSAA continues to reinforce the message that the plan is to start official practice Aug. 1, with the series of postseason tournaments scheduled in 10 of those sports later this fall.
The OHSAA has a return-to-play recommendations document in the works and plans to send it to member schools once it's approved by the governor's office and state Department of Health. That could happen any day.
"If I was a betting man, I would bet money that we would have all of our fall sports," said Tim Stried, OHSAA senior director of communications. "And I'm optimistic, but I think we will."
Question: The Ohio Football Coaches Association released a 38-page proposal Tuesday that outlines its recommendations for the upcoming season, including health and safety protocols. What impact will that proposal have on this upcoming season?
Answer: The proposal features social distancing recommendations, sideline spacing, the length of halftime and other health and safety topics within the game.
OHSAA football administrator Beau Rugg said Tuesday night the proposal is significant. He viewed the first two drafts and gave suggestions.
"Their recommendations align very well with our broad guideline document," Rugg said. "The practice protocols and travel recommendations are tremendous. We will be sending out rule modifications to schools for all sports in the next few days. Within the football rule modifications, I have some recommendations and have included the link to their document."
OHSFCA president Tom Pavlansky said the outline is a working document for over 700 schools that want to play 11-man football. He said the proposal was emailed to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's office.
"We just want to provide the best opportunity to have a fall season this year and to do so in a responsible way to serve the kids and the game of football," Pavlansky said.
Question: If everything is proceeding with fall sports, does that mean there will be a full football season?
Answer: Unfortunately, no one has a crystal ball. DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health will ultimately make the decision.
If there is some sort of delay during the season, the OHSAA would have to determine what changes are needed for the minimum number of games to qualify for the computer points playoff system. Currently, there is an eight-game minimum to qualify for the postseason. The state football finals venue for December hasn't been announced yet either.
Question: Can you say, once and for all, that spring football won't happen?
Answer: Never say never about anything in 2020 ... but it seems very unlikely.
Everything is geared toward the fall season. The OHSAA and its board of directors wouldn't want to jeopardize some spring sports again. Plus, there is a question of football players working out for a significant duration of time if the season started in February or March and would start up again in fall 2021.
Question: Didn't the OHSAA say it's up to the school districts to decide whether they have sports this school year?
Answer: OHSAA interim executive director Bob Goldring said that in part of a larger response during a media conference call July 14.
The remark made headlines around the state, but the truth is it wasn't breaking news. Goldring was stating the obvious.
Every school year it's up to the school districts to decide whether to have interscholastic sports. However, every member school this summer is looking even deeper for direction and a way to plan ahead during this turbulent time.
The OHSAA later sent a statement on social media that said each school will determine which sports they sponsor.
Question: What will attendance look like around high school sporting events this fall?
Answer: It hasn't been determined by the governor's office yet, but athletic directors aren't expecting any sellouts this fall.
Stried said it could be left up to the local health departments.
Question: What is the difference between a contact and non-contact sport this fall?
Answer: Three of the OHSAA's fall sports already have been declared by the governor 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 have not yet been approved by the governor to have regular competitions between schools without another extension of a health order.
Question: If a high school starts with remote learning in August, how does that impact athletics?
Answer: Middletown announced Monday night it would start the school year with remote learning Aug. 17. Goldring said a district's decision on the style of learning during the pandemic doesn't impact athletics. Students are still required to take and pass five one-credit courses, or the equivalent, in order to be eligible the second grading period.
Question: Why have some states decided to postpone their fall seasons while others, like Ohio, are moving forward?
Answer: It's naturally very easy to look around the country and read about who is not playing fall sports and if there are delays or postponements until the spring. There was news about Texas and Washington recently, and California delayed high school football until December or January. Yet, others are moving forward. The Ohio governor's office hasn't announced anything about August yet, so the plans continue for a season by utilizing health and safety protocols by school and team.