'Athletics Will Be Back,' OHSAA Updates Winter, Spring Sports Status

Staff Writer

By JAKE DOWLING

Sports Editor

COLUMBUS — Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass updated coaches, fans, parents and the media regarding the status of the organization’s winter sports tournaments and spring sports season during a press conference on Thursday.

“One thing this crisis has brought out and how important school and school activities are in the lives of students and communities, parents and fans, that does not go unnoticed at all,” “When there are good things that arise out of a crisis, certainly, that is one of those that will force all of us in the educational business to really focus on how to get this back to normalcy.”

Snodgrass reiterated on a number of occasions that the decisions made were not made lightly. The OHSAA executive director echoed the same words that Gov. Mike DeWine mentioned in his press conference on Wednesday, that “the virus is here and we must be at war with it.”

“We have a duty and I have a duty and the responsibility to help with that war to fight it and we are going to do that,” Snodgrass added.

Snodgrass explained why the OHSAA implemented the three-week no-contact period as it coincided with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advocacy of social distancing in a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“We put it in place so we could control the social distancing by helping with not getting kids together,” Snodgrass said. “We didn’t want captains practices, we didn’t want volunteer workouts — we really wanted you to get together on your own because we thought it was important.

“We do, however, promote the constant contact between student-athletes via electronic communications. They need mental support and that is something that we will continue to stress.”

While the window of opportunity for the OHSAA’s winter sports is closing rapidly, the organization believes the sports remain on an indefinite postponement.

“We do that for simple reasons,” Snodgrass added. “We realize that there are so many other factors that people do not realize — site availability, coach’s availability, officials and the risk category that same may be in that the OHSAA cannot and will not subject to being faced with being infected by this virus.”

The status of winter sports also hinges on the decisions by the governor — for example, extending school closures for a longer period of time. Snodgrass added that if schools around the state are still closed going into May, continuing winter sports will be “problematic” and Snodgrass added that he does not expect every parent and fan to understand all of the reasons why.

“I do not want to put a school in a spot where they will host a tournament when I am not sure they are speaking for all of the right people for that,” Snodgrass said.

Snodgrass added that canceling winter for the season is still on the table. Of all of the winter sports left to finish — boys and girls basketball, wrestling and ice hockey — wrestling was described by Snodgrass as a major issue with many weight classes and an obstacle for obeying social distancing in terms of finding a venue. There are 672 wrestlers in the state tournament and 168 alternates.

“Everything is on the table, I would be remiss if I did not say that,” Snodgrass added.

The OHSAA confirmed a no-contact period for all of its member schools through April 5, meaning no coaches can meet with athletes and all of those facilities are to be closed in the meantime. Locally, area high schools have ceased practices, scrimmages and workouts immediately until April 6.

In Snodgrass' release, he cited communication as a key component during temporary ban of high school sports, adding, "we do not want violations, which makes your oversight and communication vital."

Per the release, there will be mandatory practices and/or acclimatization — of required — from April 6-10 and all scrimmages, regular season contest may begin April 11, with tournaments remaining on the dates as currently scheduled.

But Snodgrass added on Thursday that those dates may change depending on what the governor says. Decisions on OHSAA winter sports tournaments should come in the next 24 to 48 hours.

“It does not mean at this point that we are canceling spring sports, but is canceling on the table? It absolutely has to be on the table,” he added. “I’m not going to blame the governor but his decision will be a major factor.”

With the postponement of winter sports, Snodgrass said the OHSAA has lost 80% of total revenue from ticket sales, about $1.4-1.5 million out of a $19 million budget.

“I found it amazing when we postponed the winter sports tournaments that it was all about the money, I didn’t quite process that,” he said. “If it was all about the money, we would probably have them no matter what.

“We are going to make sure that the services that we provide to kids and the opportunities that we provide through athletics are at the forefront. We will come back. Athletics will come back.”