The Ohio High School Athletic Association delivered some more news to its member schools on Friday, but it provided a small glimmer of hope that things could possibly get back to normal at some point.
The OHSAA’s mandatory dead period — which has been in effect since March 16 and extended twice since — is being lifted effective on May 26 for six sports which have been designated as “non-contact” or “low-contact.”
Those six sports are baseball, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and golf.
They are available to be played under the guidelines created by the Governor’s office, and not under OHSAA regulations, which can be found at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/Baseball-Softball.pdf.
However, at the same point, that also leads to this question. Based upon remarks from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s daily press briefing on Thursday, as those have been conducted as updates on the state’s response to the coronavirus threat, is it possible that spring sports seasons could have started 11 days ago?
Had schools re-opened on May 4 as that was DeWine’s plan from the very beginning, the OHSAA’s dead period would have ended the day before — and a spring sports re-acclimation period taking place from May 4 thru May 8 with games permitted to begin being played on May 9.
For the area, those spring sports include boys tennis, track and field, baseball and softball.
The OHSAA — via memo — responded on Friday to perhaps some comments from Lt. Governor Jon Husted during DeWine’s daily briefing, in which Husted indicated that “local departments of health will determine the safe reopening of school outdoor facilities”.
The memo, which was written by OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass, said “(Thursday, May 14) announcement from the Governor’s office has created many questions for schools and all relevant parties (coaches, student-athletes and parents). While we continue to learn more and dissect the information available, we want to provide you with the most current information.”
In Friday’s memo, Snodgrass wrote: On April 30, the Director of the State Dept. of Health identified various facilities closed in the “Stay-Safe-Ohio-Order” signed on that date.
This included but was not limited to STADIUMS (listed in 11 (g) page 5/6) in the order at: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/publicorders/Directors-Stay-Safe-Ohio-Order.pdf. See item #13 (specifically items ‘a’ and ‘g’).”
The OHSAA, on April 30, extended its dead period to cover the entire month of May — in conjunction with an order invoked the day before from the Ohio Department of Health, which closed ALL school buildings in the state of Ohio until at least July 1.
That order, officially overseen by ODH Director Dr. Amy Acton, “shall remain in full force and effect until the State of Emergency declared by the Governor no longer exists, or the Director of the Ohio Department of Health rescinds or modifies this order.”
But Snodgrass said also that “a comment during the press conference seems to have raised questions about potential school facilities outside school buildings.”
The OHSAA has no power over school buildings or facilities, and Snodgrass said that “it is recommended that you read the orders/guidelines and apply them as your local department of health and governing school board/body would permit; making certain to follow all CDC and Dept. of Health safety guidelines.”
He also said that any additional questions regarding school facilities should be directed towards local departments of health.
Friday’s memo was the latest in a series of communications from and actions by the OHSAA, which included the April 20 announcement that the 2020 spring sports season was officially canceled just a little bit after DeWine declared that the state’s schools would be closed for in-person attendance for the remainder of the academic year.
Husted’s clarification comments — likely eye-opening at the OHSAA offices — only established hindsight, and whether “potential school facilities outside school buildings” were in fact part of the ODH order.
Meanwhile, as Ohio continues its “reopening”, Snodgrass said discussion on spring sports seasons in the summer is officially closed.
“The OHSAA spring sports seasons and tournaments have been cancelled and will not be conducted during the summer,” Snodgrass said. “This decision was made looking at every possible option at the time. It simply is not possible to put spring sports in place for everyone at this time. We have continued to use every possible avenue to be involved with “reopening” Ohio’s sports and, while our communication has been acknowledged, we still do not have a seat at the table for the reopening.”
That “reopening”, part of DeWine’s “Responsible Restart Ohio” plan, includes both mandatory and recommended guidelines for baseball and softball leagues and golf course and tennis courts operators — and takes effect on Tuesday, May 26.
“Under the current decision, all other sports have not been identified as being able to start,” Snodgrass said. “Please tell your other sport coaches to remain patient as we will make updates as soon as the Governor’s office provides more information on what sports will be permitted, and every intent is to align with the Governor’s orders.”
In addition, the OHSAA’s Board of Directors discussed and approved the summer coaching time frame for team sports in the 2020-21 academic year.
“Members of a school team’s coaching staff in the team sports of baseball, basketball, field hockey, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball and volleyball may coach students from their school teams from June 1 through Aug. 31, 2020, without restriction except that participation cannot be mandatory. The extension of these dates through Aug. 31 is valid only for the 2020 summer period. Beginning with the 2021 summer period, the period of unrestricted coaching for interscholastic team sports coaches with their student-athletes will return to the period from June 1 thru July 31.”
As for remaining OHSAA-sponsored sports, the dead period remains in effect thru May 31, although Snodgrass additionally said: “a decision will be forthcoming on the no-contact period for those remaining sports as soon as information is provided to us.”