COLUMBUS — Ohio high school athletes are still in limbo as the state and country deal with the rapidly-evolving coronavirus pandemic.
That was the overriding message delivered by Ohio High School Athletic Association executive director Jerry Snodgrass on Thursday.
“It is here and we must be at war with it,” Snodgrass said, echoing Governor Mike DeWine’s earlier message regarding the COVID-19 virus, during a press conference at OHSAA headquarters. “I have a duty and a responsibility to help with that war, to fight it, and we are going to do that.”
The OHSAA indefinitely suspended its remaining winter sports tournaments last week, putting the girls basketball, wrestling and ice hockey state tournaments and the boys basketball regional tournament, on hold. Snodgrass admitted “the window is closing” on those events.
“There are a lot of factors that enter in to when, how and why we may end up having to cancel our winter tournaments,” Snodgrass said. “Cancelling is on the table. Everything is on the table. I would be remiss if I did not say that.”
DeWine announced last week that all Ohio K-12 schools would be closed until at least April 6. The OHSAA, acting on the governor’s proclamation, initiated a no-contact period which runs until April 5.
“Starting a week ago, we became very aggressive in our fight,” Snodgrass said. “We instituted immediately a three-week no-contact period for our coaches. That no-contact period was put in place so we could help control that social distancing, that we could help with not getting kids together.”
The OHSAA sent out a tentative schedule regarding spring sports last week. Snodgrass said given the ever-changing situation, everything remains fluid.
“As of this moment, with schools being out until April 6, we put a plan together that would include a period of time where we would like practices to begin before they have their first contests and our (spring sports) state tournaments still staying on the same schedule,” Snodgrass said, “However, what will change that overnight will be any decision by the governor to extend the closure of schools.
“It doesn’t mean at this point, with spring sports, that we are canceling. But is cancelling on the table? It absolutely has to be on the table.”
Since the announcement to indefinitely postpone winter tournaments was made last week, Snodgrass and his staff have been under fire on social media. The OHSAA chief understands people’s frustration but insists he and his team are acting in the best interest of member schools.
“It’s a severe virus that we must, as the governor said, go to war with and defeat,” Snodgrass said. “That is why right now we continue with the postponement of our winter sports and a tentative schedule going forward with our spring sports.
“We will consult with our member schools first before we make any public decision to cancel or extend postponements.”
In closing, Snodgrass emphasized how difficult this time has been for athletes, coaches, parents and administrators.
“This is emotional for everyone,” he said. “This is our life, too. This is what we do every single day, is work for our kids. I think people forget that some times.
Everything is emotional but, as the governor said, it’s here and we have to fight the war. We will do that.”