CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The Ohio High School Athletic Association set official dates Friday for the return of sports at high schools across the state.
The letter officially sets Aug. 1 as the date practices may begin for both contact sports (boxing, football, futsal, basketball, field hockey, hockey, martial arts, lacrosse, rugby, soccer and wrestling) and non-contact sports (golf, girls tennis and volleyball).
But whereas non-contact sports are assured of their seasons — that is, of scrimmages and games between competing schools — the fate of football and other contact sports pends upon final approval from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health.
If games in contact sports are not approved by Sept. 4, fall contact sports and all remaining winter and spring sports will move to a condensed schedule that will take place between mid-December and the end of June, OHSAA says. Fall non-contact sports would move forward as scheduled.
OHSAA also stipulates contact sports can move forward with their seasons only if COVID-19 testing “will not be required.”
The stipulation appears to be a preemptive effort by OHSAA to reserve the power to set COVID-19-related safety rules as well as punishments for violations of those rules.
Elsewhere in the letter, for example, OHSAA says it will adhere to requirements “as requested by the governor’s office.” The passage’s ambiguous wording leaves unclear whether OHSAA will give DeWine carte blanche to promulgate those requirements — and, if so, whether the association will follow them. But the COVID-19 stipulation mentioned above seems to indicate otherwise.
All the same, high-school football, soccer, field hockey and cross country practices will begin Aug. 1 alongside non-contact sports.
And, excepting districts like Middletown City Schools, which has indefinitely suspended all fall extracurricular activities, games in contact sports will occur “per their normal OHSAA permissible dates and regulations.”
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The target date for football games and cross country meets is Aug. 24.
The target date for soccer and field hockey matches is Aug. 21.
No school-vs.-school scrimmages will be permitted in football, soccer or field hockey under any circumstances.
Golf will be allowed one scrimmage. The first matches will take place Aug. 5.
Girls tennis will be allowed one scrimmage during practice and prior to the first match. The first matches will take place Aug. 7.
Volleyball will be allowed five scrimmages and one preview permitted during practice. The first games will take place Aug. 21.
OHSAA adds conversations are ongoing with DeWine and ODH regarding placing field hockey and cross country in the non-contact sports category.
OHSAA Board of Directors President and Superintendent of the Noble Local School District in Sarahsville Dan Leffingwell issued the following statement contained with in the letter:
“It is important to keep athletic activity moving forward. And with that, we believe our member schools provide our student‐athletes with the safest possible environment to return to play and that our school programs are the best avenue to help students learn lifelong lessons and provide social, emotional and physical benefits that other programs cannot. Moving forward allows those students to continue to be engaged with their school coaches and teammates. Membership data also supports this decision.
“If we were to delay, our students will find opportunities to compete in sports through non‐school programs that may not be focused on safety and are not education‐based. Should data on COVID‐19 change and/or the Governor’s Office makes changes to our plan, we have flexibility that would allow us to look at implementing other models for our seasons.”