YOUNGSTOWN — While Ohioans await a decision from Gov. Mike DeWine on whether fall sports training will be permitted for high school athletes in August, fans of Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania will have no athletic competitions to cheer this fall.
And it's possible that some of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference's fall sports, including football, will be shifted to spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Youngstown, Ron Strollo, Youngstown State University executive athletic director, told WFMJ Channel 21 on Wednesday (July 15) that at least 10 athletes are in quarantine as a precaution for coronavirus.
Strollo said some of the athletes are in quarantine because of returning from out of state, some aren't feeling well and others have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus.
YSU's athletes are expected to report for the start of fall practices on July 23. Strollo said any student-athlete who wants a coronavirus test can get one.
Also Wednesday, DeWine did not comment on high school reopenings nor fall sports returning in asking all Ohioans to wear face masks in public.
During DeWine's last press conference July 9, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted noted that the state's current amended order from the health director that provides guidance for contact sports practices and noncontact sports competitions and contact competition expires July 15.
"We will have more guidance coming next week," Husted said on July 9. "We’re having great conversations with the various sports organizations from around the state — including the Ohio High School Athletic Association, our colleges and professional teams — to make sure we are learning on how to keep people safe and allowing them to participate.
"So, again, more information will be forthcoming [this] week.”
DeWine has scheduled a press conference for Thursday at 2 p.m.
On Tuesday, the OHSAA said it is awaiting permission from the governor's office for fall contact sports, including football, volleyball and soccer, to go forward.
Bob Goldring, the OHSAA's acting executive director, said it would be up to each school to decide (and not the OHSAA) if that school will have teams compete should the governor authorize fall sports. Goldring said he expects fall sports training to begin Aug. 1.
On July 6, Goldring replaced Jerry Snodgrass, who was dismissed as OHSAA executive director after two years.
Tuesday, the PSAC Board of Directors voted to suspend all mandated conference athletic events and championships through the fall semester in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Slippery Rock is one of the 18 colleges in the conference.
PSAC said on its website that a full review of its ability to shift fall sports competition and championships to the spring semester is underway. The conference intends to make the switch if a return to competition can be safely executed.
"The entire conference has worked hard these last few months to prepare for the return of sports to our campuses beginning this fall," PSAC Commissioner Steve Murray said on the conference's website. "However, it has become apparent that the safe conduct of sports under the guidelines of social distancing is untenable for our members.
"We cannot place our student-athletes at greater risk than the general student body," Murray said. "Despite our planning and collective efforts, it has become clear that we are not able to do so.”
Other area schools in the NCAA Division II PSAC's 18-school conference are Clarion, California University of Pennsylvania, Gannon and Mercyhurst.
"We are committed to giving our student-athletes the chance to compete during this academic year," said Geraldine Jones, president of California University of Pennsylvania and newly elected chair of the PSAC Board of Directors. "Many institutions and conferences are facing the same circumstances as we are, and if it is safe to return to competition, we will work with them and the NCAA to provide our teams with a championship experience during the spring semester.
"We know this is a huge disappointment for our student-athletes who work so very hard in their sport," Jones said. "This decision was not taken lightly, and we feel saddened by having to do so.”
PSAC and its member institutions will develop guidelines for all teams to continue individual skill instruction as well as strength and conditioning activities under social distancing protocols by the end of the summer. The determination as to when winter and spring sports may begin workouts and practices will be considered at a later date.
"The circumstances we find ourselves in are unprecedented, and thus we are taking unprecedented measures," Murray said. "The contraction of COVID-19 and its viral spread are not the types of risks those involved with sports activities face under normal circumstances.
"Therefore, we cannot expose our student-athletes, coaches and university personnel to those risks. It is a painful step we are taking, but we feel it is the right one."
All fall and winter sports scheduled to begin before Jan. 1 are impacted by this decision.
The PSAC decision was made on the same day that Philadelphia banned large gatherings through Dec. 31, meaning no fans will be in the stadium for the NFL's Eagles' home games.
In Ohio, Oberlin College of the NCAA Division III North Coast Athletic Conference last week announced it will not compete in fall sports.
Also last week, the Big Ten Conference, which includes Ohio State, eliminated all fall contests not within the conference. As a result, the Buckeyes' first three football games against Bowling Green, Oregon and Buffalo have been canceled. The Buckeyes' first football game is scheduled for Sept. 26 against Rutgers.
YSU's football team, which is in the NCAA's Division I FCS division, plans to compete in all fall sports. The Penguins' first football game is scheduled for Sept. 5 at the University of Akron (Division I FBS).