Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said on Monday an announcement on if and when contact sports like football can compete this fall is coming soon.
High school contact sports squads have been allowed to practice since late June but haven’t been permitted to play games. The governor’s office may soon give the go-ahead for prep football to kick off in late August like the Ohio High School Athletic Association wants.
“The OHSAA and our team have had constructive conversations and we also share the same goal of returning to play and doing it safely,” Husted said by phone. “We’ll have an announcement on all that in the very near future, but I don’t want to get ahead of that announcement.”
The OHSAA released a plan on Friday to start football the week of Aug. 24 and shorten the season by two weeks.
The OHSAA cited recommendations from the governor’s office as being a driving force of the plan. State championship games were originally scheduled to be conducted in the first week of December but will now be finished by Nov. 21.
The OHSAA said the move to conclude football before Thanksgiving came after the governor’s office expressed concerns COVID-19 may spike in early winter.
“We try to share with them all the information we have with what’s happening with schools, the latest health information we have, and how that could potentially impact contact/non-contact sports,” Husted said. “To the extent they use that information to craft their plans, you’d have to ask them about that.
“I don’t want to interject as having had any role in (their plans) other than just trying to provide some good advice.”
OHSAA board members have indicated the governor’s office is supportive of the plan, including Lakota West athletic director Scott Kaufman, who told the Dayton Daily News he hopes football will get the green light on Tuesday. Husted and Gov. Mike DeWine’s next scheduled COVID-19 news conference is 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
“I want to reserve judgement about any specific plan,” Husted said.
Boys and girls soccer and field hockey are also labeled as contact sports by the Ohio Department of Health and cannot currently play games. The OHSAA currently has those sports scheduled to begin regular-season play on Aug. 21, pending approval from the governor’s office.
“I’ve reviewed all documents that they’ve produced or they have developed in the hopes of returning play for contact sports,” Husted said. “We have our own guidelines that we’re developing. We want to make sure they’re aligned with the OHSAA, because ultimately they’re going to have to provide the accountability for any return to play.
“They’ll have to make sure it’s done safely and make sure that we share the goal of limiting the spread of the coronavirus.”
Preseason practice for fall sports began Aug. 1, though most teams have been practicing since late June. Non-contact sports like golf and tennis were cleared for games in early June, and OHSAA squads were allowed to begin regular-season play last week.
Husted, who played football at the University of Dayton, said sports and extracurricular activities are important to students’ growth.
“For young people, sports and extracurricular activities may be the thing they’ve invested more time in than anything else,” Husted said. “This matters to them. It is a source of hope, it is a source of happiness.
“Extracurricular activities in my experience are also incredibly important in developing character skills, grit, determination, resilience, the ability to exercise teamwork. …I think the combination of how important it is to the physical and mental health of students and their overall development make it really important that we do our best to allow these students to have a season.”