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OHSAA says practices for fall sports may begin Saturday

High schools are proceeding even though many college programs have been postponed due to safety concerns.
(File photo).

Three days after Gov. Mike DeWine said he doesn't have enough data to decide whether he might inpose restrictions on schools reopening , the Ohio High School Athletic Association reaffirmed that fall sports are currently going forward as planned.

The OHSAA today posted on its website and informed athletic directors that practices may begin Saturday, as had been previously scheduled.

"It is important to keep athletic activity moving forward," said Dan Leffingwell, president of the OHSAA Board of Directors, on the site. "And with that, we believe our member schools provide our student-athletes with the safest possible environment to return to play."

It's been a wild month for the OHSAA. On July 6, Jerry Snodgrass, the executive director for two years, was dismissed with no explanation given. The move came about a week after Snodgrass wouldn't rule out the possibility of fall sports, including football, being moved to spring because of COVID-19 safety issues.

Bob Goldring was named interim executive director and almost immediately said the fall schedule would remain in place.

Throughout this month, DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted have said at their news conferences that they would be making a decision on the safety of schools reopening and sports competition. At Thursday's briefing, DeWine did not mention schools nor sports, and neither did anyone asking him questions.

On March 12, the OHSAA, at DeWine's direction, shut down the state tournaments for girls basketball, wrestling and ice hockey, plus the regional tournaments for boys basketball. By March 15, DeWine ordered schools closed. Winter sports never resumed and spring sports were canceled in late April when DeWine did not reopen schools on May 1.

Not everyone will be practicing Saturday. Lowellville High School has suspended athletics and activities because of possible COVID-19 exposure to student-athletes. Champion High School also has a COVID-19 ban, but it expires Monday.

Last week, Eric Gordon, the CEO for Cleveland Metropolitan School District, said the members of the nine-school Senate Athletic League will not compete in fall sports because those schools will have remote learning for the first nine weeks.

In a video posted on the district's website and, Gordon said, “If it’s not safe to be in school, it’s not safe to be on the playing fields either."

Health officials for nearby Summit and Portage counties have recommended high school sports be delayed until Oct. 1.

Earlier this week, the OHSAA banned scrimmages for contact sports (football, soccer and cross country). Scrimmages are approved for noncontact sports (golf, tennis and volleyball).

Unless Ohio rules otherwise, golf competition may begin Aug. 5, girls tennis Aug. 7 and volleyball Aug. 21. Soccer competition may begin Aug. 21, and cross country Aug. 24. The first football weekend is Aug. 28-29.

The OHSAA said dates for contact sports competitions are pending approval from the governor and the Ohio Department of Health.

The OHSAA is moving ahead with practices even though most college programs have put restrictions on fall sports. The Big 10 Conference, which includes Ohio State, has canceled all non-league competition. The Buckeyes' first football game won't be until Sept. 26 against Rutgers.

The Horizion League, which includes Youngstown State in all fall sports except football, has eliminated nonconference competition.

Many of the conferences for area Division II and III colleges and universities, including the Ohio Athletic Conference and Presidents' Athletic Conference, have canceled or postponed fall sports. Those leagues are pursuing plans to play football in the spring.

The OHSAA also announced that if school vs. school competition for contact sports is not approved by Ohio by Sept. 4, that the fall, winter and spring sports seasons would move to a condensed schedule beginning in mid-December.

In Pennsylvania, the WPIAL announced today that golf and girls tennis have been delayed until Aug. 24, and the football season has been delayed until Sept. 10 and reduced to a seven-game season.