Editor’s note: This is the last of a three-part series about the status of Ohio high school sports after an exclusive interview with Ohio High School Athletic Association Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass.
During a teleconference in April, Ohio High School Athletic Association Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass said his goal was to bring high school sports back to where it was, or better.
With the ever-changing reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic in Ohio, Snodgrass is finding that goal more and more challenging.
The OHSAA was forced to cancel all winter tournaments, with the exception of swimming and diving, and the entire spring seasons, including those tournaments. That decision has been costly for the non-profit organization.
“We took a little over a $2 million hit,” said Snodgrass. “People may not like to hear it, but we have to have revenue to do what we do.”
Snodgrass said there have been lay-offs and significant pay cuts among the OHSAA staff.
“We have made significant other cuts as well,” he added. “This is all to try very hard not to effect how we serve.”
With the monetary losses, rumors of schools paying dues, in some manner, to the OHSAA have come up. Snodgrass wouldn’t say whether dues would become part of the OHSSA’s future, but he did say it was part of its past, mentioning the OHSAA has collected dues from schools for membership and to play in tournaments in the past.
“Both of those have been done in past years,” Snodgrass said. “When times got good they stopped. These are options. We never want to do this, but we might have to to help the bottom line.”
The bottom line could be in even more danger if high school sports does not return in the fall. Football is one of the largest revenue producers for high school athletics and the OHSAA and losing that season could prove costly to the organization and individual athletic programs.
Despite this, Snodgrass is not inclined to switch spring and fall sports.
“One issue I have is we already canceled spring sports,” said Snodgrass. “If we switched them, why would be doing it, so if football were to be canceled it could be played in the spring. Why move spring sports to the fall so they can be canceled again?”
The OHSAA executive director added he is not opposed to playing certain sports, if they can meet proper safety guidelines and others can not.
“I am not an all-or-none person,” said Snodgrass. “If golf can play, it is not right to cancel it because one other can’t.”
He continued by saying each sport is different, which is why each sport has its own group at the OHSAA overseeing it. There are differences in sports that could affect when each one begins again.
“Does golf need the same acclimation period as football for the athletes to get ready? Does tennis?” asked Snodgrass. “Each one of our sports administrators is working on these things, coupled with sports medicine groups.”
With no-contact and limited-contact sports given the okay to begin on May 26 by Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health and the confusion that already sits over summer activities, Snodgrass said it is premature to put a deadline on fall sports.
“There is not a specific timetable, especially with everything changing with what we can do,” he said. “The longer we get into July and things are not permitted then we will have to look at fall sports’ timetable.”
Snodgrass also reiterated the fact most of what he will be able to do will be based on orders for the governor and the Ohio Department of Health, which has the authority to keep school facilities closed.
Currently, the advisory board set up by the Ohio Department of Health to set guidelines to safely reopen sports leagues does not have a single member of the OHSAA on it. However, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Monday they will begin coordinating with Snodgrass and the OHSAA to develop protocols and guidelines for school-sanctioned sports and training to resume.
“Our every intent is to align with the governor’s orders,” Snodgrass wrote in a memo to athletics directors last week.
The toll of shutting down high school sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll emotionally on Snodgrass, who was held his position for 20 months.
“It’s personal,” he said. “It has beat me up.”
He also said he is excited for the future, regardless of how he is remembered for his role during these unprecedented times.
“If looking back and all is said and done, and I got us through this, I don’t need to get any of the credit,” said Snodgrass. “If the next guy benefits from what we do now, I am okay with that.”