COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine remains open to allowing high school sports continue this winter, saying during his Tuesday coronavirus briefing that no action is being taken “so far” to postpone basketball, wrestling and other indoor sports.
“We’ll see,” DeWine said. “So far, winter sports will proceed with a limit on the number of spectators.”
The girls basketball begins Friday. The boys basketball season can start Nov. 25. Wrestling and other sports will begin within the next month.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association will wrap up its fall sports season — which consist of mostly outdoor events — this weekend with six state championship football games. The OHSAA adjusted its fall schedule in coordination with the governor’s office to shorten those sports seasons in anticipation of a COVID-19 spike that is now happening.
As of Monday, Ohio surpassed 300,000 cases of COVID-19 with a rolling 21-day average of 5,006 cases per day and a positivity rate of 12.5 percent among those being tested in the last week. Another 7,079 cases were added Tuesday to the count, and DeWine also announced a 10 p.m. retail curfew for the next three weeks starting Thursday.
The OHSAA has remained firm that it intends to begin the winter sports seasons, but a survey sent last week to athletic directors around the state suggests it could soon readjust that position. Multiple athletic directors and two basketball coaches confirmed the survey, first reported last week by ThisWeek News in Columbus, and added they have been told plans are being considered that include the following:
⦁ Begin the seasons as scheduled.
⦁ Start in January with a condensed season.
⦁ Postpone the seasons until they can be played without interruption.
The deadline was Tuesday for athletic directors to respond to the OHSAA survey. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted noted he planned to conduct aconference call later in the day with the OHSAA to discuss the survey.
“It’s not on them,” Husted said. “It’s a collaboration with us, where we’re working together to make sure we can keep this as safe as possible.”
One athletic director said Tuesday he voted to postpone the seasons until they can be played without interruption, thinking April through June is ideal. Coaches and administrators have mixed feelings on the subject. Some want to wait. Others don’t want to see any kind of postponement.
“Going to be a crazy year, but I hope this survey that was due today doesn’t shut us down,” Brunswick boys basketball coach Joe Mackey said. “We may have to help our ADs out and find games throughout the season. Not going to be a normal year, but hopefully we push through and things get a little better prior to the tournament. Kids and schools have done everything correctly.”
Two bordering states, Michigan and West Virginia, have already delayed the start to their winter sports seasons. Michigan’s stoppage, as of Sunday, will be until at least Dec. 8. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Friday that winter sports cannot be played until Jan. 11 next year. Some Indiana schools are postponing games, while Kentucky and Pennsylvania have yet to make a final decision or are on track to start. Two states over, Illinois’ athletic association plans to meet Thursday and discuss its options.
Some schools — including Mentor and a few surrounding districts, Medina, Lutheran East, Mayfield and Villa Angela-St. Joseph — have had stoppages with their winter sports. Beachwood and Shaker Heights are practicing, but not allowing most winter sports teams to scrimmage other schools. Exceptions are being made for some non-contact sports, such as swimming.
Multiple Cuyahoga County basketball coaches said they have been informed by Akron City Series schools that they will not be able to play, at least early in the season, because their district is not permitting competition outside of Summit County.
In August, most schools prepared for their seasons without knowing whether or not they will have a season. The OHSAA permitted football scrimmages during the last week of its preseason. Basketball teams are having scrimmages, but many are adjusting on the fly because of cancellations. St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dru Joyce said Saturday after scrimmaging Richmond Heights and Struthers that he is looking for teams to prepare with because two scrimmages in the next week were canceled.
“There’s always concern about the safety and health of the kids,” Joyce said. “We’ve been trying to follow all of the protocols and do it the right way.”
One of those scrimmages that fell through was with Mentor, which has paused activities until at least Nov. 22, boys basketball coach Bob Krizancic confirmed.
Both Joyce and Krizancic saw their teams last season play deep into the postseason last March when the OHSAA halted play because of the pandemic. All spring sports lost their seasons because of the virus.
“I just worry about the kids’ mental health,” Krizancic said Saturday, adding his preference for the state government and OHSAA to find a way to allow high school sports to continue.
DeWine and Husted added during their Tuesday briefing that winter sports being indoors will further cut permitted attendance for games. The state and OHSAA set a capacity limit in August of 300 people or 15 percent seating capacity — whichever attendance mark is met first — for indoor venues, such as volleyball.
“There will be significantly less in attendance because we’re going to be inside versus what it would have been outside with a football game,” Husted said, “but there will be fewer participants. With a football team, where you might have 50 to 60 players, with some of the basketball teams and others you might have 12 to 15 players total.”