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Window closing on resuming winter tournaments

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

COLUMBUS — Winter sports may resume and they may not. Spring sports may go on and they may not.
During a press conference on Thursday, Ohio High School Athletic Association executive director Jerry Snodgrass said the winter basketball and wrestling tournaments are well as spring sports are in limbo depending on how medical officials and Governor Mike DeWine and his staff continue shutdowns or resume schools on April 6.
Snodgrass praised the staff for its foresight in planning during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
“I commend our staff for being such forward thinkers starting when the virus hit the United States. Our staff started planning for all the ‘what ifs.’. It will become one of the better untold stories of this organization.”
Snodgrass said the effect of the virus on the entire population is “something we’ve never dealt with before. One thing this crisis has brought out is how important schools and school activities are in the lives of students, the communities, the parents and fans. That is something that doesn’t go unnoticed at all.
“When good things arise out of a crisis, that is one of those that will make all of us in the educational business to focus on how to get this back to a normalcy.”
Snodgrass emphasized that the OHSAA is part of the education system and not a separate entity.
“One of the most important things to understand for everyone is though we are in the athletic business, that is what we do on a daily basis, it’s more important to understand, now more than ever, that we’re in the education business. We, in high school sports, school-bases sports, we are an extension of the classroom. We’re not the classroom itself,” said Snodgrass.
“I think in today’s world where sports dominate so much, people put high school sports on a pedestal and think that it’s separate from the educational world.”
Snodgrass said DeWine’s decision last week to close down schools and help create social distancing was not made lightly.
“Our decision to postpone tournaments at the time was not made lightly, either,” said Snodgrass. “Yesterday, (DeWine) stated in his address that it (the virus) is here and we must be at war with it. We have a duty and I have a duty to fight it and we are going to do that.”
The OHSAA has been flooded with how important a sport is to each student and Snodgrass said that isn’t taken lightly.
Snodgrass said the OHSAA became aggressive immediately and took measures to fight the virus. There were events played with few fans and then games and matches were postponed. Coaches were not to have any practices and school facilities were off limits. There was a no contact period that kept kids from getting players to get together on their own.
Snodgrass said the tournaments remain on an indefinite postponement.
“We do that for a simple reason. While the window is closing, we also realize that there are so many other factors that people do not realize,” he said noting availabilities of sites, coaches, officials and even scorekeepers who are in the risk factor area that the OHSAA will not put in a position to contact the virus.
If the governor extends the shutdowns, Snodgrass said extending the winter tournaments into the summer months — even into May — is not an option.
“Extending into May is very problematic. Many of our facilities have closed even into June,” said Snodgrass. “Cancelling is on the table. I would be remiss if I did not say that.
“I asked (the staff) to give me every factor in how we can continue or not continue. I anticipate — again, daily depending on the governor — that we will be making that decision for winter sports probably within the next 24 to 48 hours. I think we have to. I think it’s imperative that we have to. I don’t want to lead people on.”
Schools as of now will resume April 6. The OHSAA sent a plan to the schools regarding spring sports. However, that could be changed if the governor decides to extend the shutdown.
“It doesn’t mean at this point with spring sports that we are cancelling, but is cancelling on the table? It absolutely has to be on the table,” said Snodgrass.
The state wrestling tournament is a problem to conduct at different venues because there are 621 wrestlers from 300 schools. Snodgrass said it’s difficult for wrestlers to continue to do any workouts and maintain their necessary weight for the division they will participate.
The OHSAA nixed the idea of extending eligibility of athletes because of the problems that would occur from an educational standpoint.
Snodgrass said he encourages athletes to work out on their own.
In regard to fall sports, Snodgrass said some schools will finish their third quarter in a few weeks while other schools have already completed the third quarter.
He said eligibility is based on the last grading period which means some schools would be based on the third quarter while others last grading period would be the second quarter. Students are required to pass five courses.
“Where that is an issue, going into the fall the last grading period is the last quarter of the spring. Summer school grades do not count for that. We’re working on it, but we’re not ready yet to release that. We’re waiting to see what happens the rest of the school year,” said Snodgrass.
“We’re not going to get boxed in. We’re going to get creative.”
The OHSAA stands to lose between $1.4 and $1.5 million if winter tournaments are canceled out of the $19 million total budget.
“There’s a huge financial impact on this organizational. We have a separate team working on it,” said Snodgrass. “We do not rely on tax dollars. Eighty-percent of our revenue is generated by tickets sales.”