COLUMBUS — The window for the high school winter sports tournaments to be held is rapidly closing, and the spring sports are also in danger of being canceled, Ohio High School Athletic Association Commissioner Jerry Snodgrass said at a news conference Thursday.
Snodgrass, who is working with Gov. Mike DeWine, said they are at war with this virus, and it’s his duty to protect the health and safety of the student-athletes and the coaches.
“It is a severe virus that we must, as the governor said, go to war with, and for that reason that is why we continue with the postponement of our winter sports and a tentative schedule with our spring sports,” Snodgrass said.
Because of logistics such as site and officials availability, not to mention the student-athletes and the ongoing date shifts of school, the winter state tournaments are in jeopardy of not happening.
Take for example trying to put together a state wrestling tournament with the numbers involved. A total of 621 wrestlers from 300 schools were expected to participate. Finding a time, a venue and the availability of students, coaches and officials is a logistical nightmare.
Weight management also plays a factor since the majority of the wrestlers do not have facilities to train in.
Snodgrass pointed out that extending the tournaments into May is problematic and doesn’t expect all the parents, students and coaches to understand.
Snodgrass added that he would probably have a more clear picture within the next 24 to 48 hours concerning the state tournaments.
“While the window for our winter sports is closing rapidly, we still remain on an indefinite postponement. We do that for a simple reason. While the window is closing, people must also realize there are so many factors people don’t realize,” Snodgrass said. “I do not want to lead people on and give them false hope.”
With the winter basketball tournament, Snodgrass was asked if they had a procedure or plan to declare possible champions.
“We have discussed remotely that,” Snodgrass said. “For example some brought up that we declare all 16 girls teams as champions. I’m not into that. I would have to look at the poll champion. I really don’t know.”
While the primary concerns are about safety for the students, Snodgrass estimates that the monetary loss of the winter tournaments is around $1.4 million just on revenue from the winter sports out of a $19 million total budget.
“People some times don’t realize we are a business,” Snodgrass said. “We are in the educational business but we do not rely on tax dollars. We are nonprofit and 80 percent is generated from ticket sales. … I do want to emphasize when we are looking at that we are going to make available the services that we provide to kids and opportunities that we provide through athletics is at the forefront of what we will maintain.”
Going on DeWine’s initial closing statement of schools for three weeks, Snodgrass said the OHSAA has come up with a tentative plan for the spring based on if the schools return April 6.
“We put a plan together that would include a period of time where practices begin before their first contest and our state tournament still staying on the same schedule,” Snodgrass said. “However what will change that overnight will be any decision by the governor to extend the closures of schools. And again, it doesn’t mean at this point with spring sports that we are canceling, but is canceling on the table? It absolutely has to be on the table. I would be remiss if I did not say that.”
Snodgrass offered up a bit of optimism saying that if schools reconvened in May they do have wriggle room to get in some spring sports and extend the tournaments to later in June.
Without school, the OHSAA instituted a 10-day no contact period between players and coaches to help control social distancing.
“We didn’t want captains’ practices. We didn’t want voluntary practices,” Snodgrass said. “We do however promote the constant contact with our student-athletes via electronic communications. That is important.”
Snodgrass added that the student-athletes need that mental support.
As far as future decisions, Snodgrass said they would always consult with member schools first before any decision is made.
“I think our member schools trust us to do that, and we owe are member schools that to communicate with them,” Snodgrass said.