By DEL DUDUIT
Southern Ohio Today
According to the Ohio High School Athletic Association, girls and boys basketball, and all winter sports will begin as planned despite rising coronavirus cases in Ohio.
The OHSAA announced on Wednesday plans to move ahead as scheduled although fall sports saw a shortened season because of the virus.
Ohio went past 300,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday and saw a 12 percent rate increase, and another 7,000-plus cases were added on Tuesday.
“Though we are seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases in Ohio, I would like to utilize this update to reaffirm that the OHSAA winter sports seasons will go forward as planned,” OHSAA executive director Doug Ute wrote in an email to schools. “The decision comes after discussion with the governor’s office, the OHSAA Board of Directors and the OHSAA staff along with conversations with numerous administrators and the results of the membership survey that we just conducted.”
Girls basketball is still set to tip off Friday while the boys will begin their season on Wednesday.
Waverly High School Athletic Director Bo Arnett said he is glad to see the season move forward.
“The student-athletes need to have something to look forward to and a chance to compete both physically and mentally,” he said. “There will be some cancelations, but I hope we can get in as many games as we can and have the tournament.”
Minford High School AD Kristen Ruby echoed Arnett’s thoughts on playing, but said she is concerned about the possibility of increasing the risk of exposure.
“I am concerned with the rising COVID-19 cases in the county and state. I worry about a disproportionality of games being played,” she said. “Some teams will be affected by quarantines and others may not. It is possible to reach the tournament draw with a team barely having half of their games played. As long as teams can proceed safely, I look forward to our winter sports season.”
Based on the results from a survey given to athletic directors, principals and superintendents, 1,464 administrators in Ohio submitted answers.
Fifty six percent (826) responded and said they wanted to begin winter sports on schedule.
If conditions get worse, 11 percent of them indicated sports should be stopped, while 483 of them (33 percent) said winters sports should be pushed back to January 2021.
Ute noted that each school district can decide if it will proceed with winter sports.
Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday during his COVID-19 briefing that the state is allowing sports to go forward and is stressing limits on spectators.
DeWine also announced a 21-day curfew, which starts at 10 p.m. each night.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted met with OHSAA officials later Tuesday to discuss the survey and moving forward. In his memo, Ute stressed starting times should be considered for high school sports.
“The new Ohio curfew order does not mean schools must be home from their competitions strictly at 10 p.m., but venues/gyms need to be vacated by 10 p.m., followed by transportation back home,” Ute said in a written release. “While consideration by schools and conferences/leagues should be given to move starting times for contests earlier, the new order does mean it is imperative that administrators work with student-athletes and coaches to emphasize that once the contest ends or schools return from road trips, everyone should go home and not congregate at someone’s house or a local restaurant.
“Those types of gatherings have proven to help spread the virus and may play a major role in pausing a school’s season,” he said.
Ute also said the OHSAA received additional guidance from the Ohio Department of Health on winter sports concerns.
The OHSAA also released recommended suggestions for winter sports based on guidelines from the Ohio Department of Health, which include:
– Participants, cheerleaders and pep band members do not count toward an allowable number of spectators.
– If available, auxiliary gymnasiums should be considered for athletes waiting to play, such as a junior varsity or varsity team.
– Administrators should consider sending teams separately to games, such as freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams.
– For individual sports, reduce the number of opponents that participate. The OHSAA used an example of three maximum schools for wrestling, swimming, gymnastics and bowling competition.
– Reduce contact frequency with student-athletes from schools outside of each league or conference.
– Cheerleaders should place placed as far away from players and contest officials on the court as possible, and even in the bleachers.
– When not performing, cheerleaders and pep band members must wear facial coverings.
After this weekend, the OHSAA is wrapping up its shortened football season, which was originally set to conclude the first week of December.