COLUMBUS — The fate of high school sports in the upcoming school year in Ohio during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is more in the hands of local schools and Gov. Mike DeWine than the Ohio High School Athletic Association, interim OHSAA executive director Bob Goldring said on a teleconference on Tuesday.
“We really feel it’s the schools’ decision on whether they will have sports or not, just like every other extra-curricular activity. We don’t think it’s the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s place to say yea or nay to sports. Our full focus is on our tournaments and we control, so to speak, those. We have to take directives from the governor’s office, his team and his medical staff,” Goldring said.
The OHSAA will stick to its previously scheduled date of Aug. 1 for the beginning of practice for fall sports.
“Right now, and this is a message we have shared with our membership, we’re looking at starting our practices as they’re normally scheduled on Aug. 1 and our seasons to follow. That is what our board is interested in and what our staff is working for. But all that is fluid and could possibly change,” Goldring said.
“We are facing uncertain and unprecedented times. Our No. 1 priority is the health and well being of our student athletes and all those associated with their programs. And our No. 2 priority is probably the same as our No. 1 priority,” he said.
“We’re open to all suggestions and all possibilities. As you can imagine, they are all over the board.” Some people think we’re crazy to even consider starting sports where a lot of other people say, ‘Why wouldn’t you?’
“We want to take our lead from the governor’s office. We don’t want to do anything that conflicts with what he has in mind and his team of experts, including the medical folks, say moving forward. We hope to get some recommendations out to our schools very soon on what opening means.”
Goldring, who has been the OHSAA’s acting executive director since Jerry Snodgrass was removed from that position on July 6 by the organization’s board of directors, says he has been encouraged after talking with athletic association leaders from other states.
“My comfort level lies in the fact I was on with 10 other Midwest state associations on a conference call, and we are right now all in the same boat and everyone is forging ahead with their normal offerings for fall sports,” Goldring said.
But he also acknowledges there are concerns. “As a human being and a husband and father and reading the news and what’s going on with a spike in cases, being open and honest, I am nervous about what’s going on,” he said.
“On the other hand, our medical experts seem to be saying the risk is not as high for a younger population, so we have to trust that and do everything we can to make sure we are following all of the guidelines and requirements to do our sports safely.”
New Jersey recently announced plans to delay the start of its high school football season until Oct. 2 and to shrink the size of its playoffs. Some other states have discussed finishing fall sports in the spring if seasons are interrupted.
Goldring said what might work in other states might not necessarily be a good fit in Ohio. “The size of our state makes it a little more challenging with so many sports offered,” he said, referring to the 10 fall sports in which OHSAA champions are determined.
Finances are another big concern for the OHSAA, which lost an estimated $2 million dollars in ticket sales after the boys and girls state basketball tournaments, the state wrestling tournament and all spring sports tournaments were canceled.
“How do you plan your budget when you’ve had two seasons of no income and the possibility of a third season? Who knows what is going to happen? Probably 80 percent or more of our revenue is generated from ticket sales. The fiscal part of things is very much on my radar right now,” Goldring said.