OHSAA not quite ready to cancel winter tournaments, spring sports
By Steve Blackledge The Columbus Dispatch undefined
In so many words, Ohio High School Athletic Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass made something painfully clear during a news conference Thursday:
The spring sports season, in limbo because of the statewide closure of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, is in serious jeopardy. Meanwhile, the future is even more dire for the remaining winter state tournaments – boys and girls basketball, wrestling and ice hockey – that were postponed last week.
Snodgrass on Thursday stopped short of making any official cancellations before a limited gathering of media members, but emphasized that many of his decisions will be hastened by those of Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio’s health authorities.
“Governor DeWine said [Wednesday] that this is a severe virus that we must go to war with and defeat,” Snodgrass said. “It’s not just that I’m waiting for his recommendation. If it’s obvious — and he’s used that word regarding school closure — it’s an overriding factor.”
Off the record, an OHSAA member said the news conference initially was scheduled for last weekend because Snodgrass believed DeWine was on the verge of shutting down schools for the remainder of the year. That move, obviously, would mean the end of sports, as well.
Since the onset of the coronavirus threat, which has prompted the stoppage of college and professional sports worldwide, Snodgrass said he and his staff have carefully examined all the “what-ifs” regarding resumption of play.
Currently, a three-week “no contact” policy involving athletics is in place until schools are slated to resume April 6.
Regarding the rest of the winter state tournaments, Snodgrass indicated that a decision may be coming within 48 hours.
“The window is rapidly closing on the winter sports tournaments,” he said. “Off the top of my head, I’d say that those couldn’t be resumed until mid-May and I doubt if we could pull that off.
“A lot of factors enter into how, when and why and, believe me, we’ve examined every angle. The bottom line is, any decision overnight by the governor could dramatically change any schedule or timeline.”
Citing the number of participants (621), availability of a facility and potential weight management issues, Snodgrass said that rescheduling the wrestling tournament would be “very difficult … almost impossible.”
With college facilities shut down for the rest of the school year, the OHSAA reportedly reached out to some high schools to gauge interest in hosting the event and were met with resistance because of the sheer number of competitors and fans in close proximity.
“My initial thought would be that if one of the winter tournaments would be canceled, all of them would be,” Snodgrass said.
The status of spring sports, he added, would hinge on how soon, or if, classes resume. Snodgrass conceded that it’s possible spring sports could essentially return in early- to mid-May — about the time postseason tournaments are set to begin.
“We have a little bit of wiggle room there and we’ve kept that window open for what-ifs,” he said.
As a former teacher, coach and administrator, Snodgrass is in tune with the emotions of athletes and fans. He said he has heard from plenty of them via social media and email.
Snodgrass estimated that the OHSAA, a nonprofit organization, will lose in the neighborhood of $1.5 million by canceling its winter tournaments.
“This is emotional for everybody but this is about a larger purpose,” he said. “Our No. 1 priority is to fight this pandemic and keep our kids, parents and officials safe.”