OHSAA updates on winter and spring sports

Seth Kinker
Sports Editor

On Mar. 19, shortly after noon, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) held a 45-minute press conference at their office in Columbus to give updates on the postponed winter sport tournaments and updates on spring sports. 

OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass was flanked by OHSAA Director of Communications Tim Stried and sport administrators Roxanne Price (tennis), Beau Rugg (football), Lauren Prochaska (golf) and Dale Gabor (track and field). 

Snodgrass gave an opening statement followed by frequently asked questions submitted from member schools and finished by answering questions from media in attendance.  

Snodgrass commended his staff and member schools watching the broadcast for disseminating the important information that has cascaded down like an avalanche over the past week. 

“Certainly, as everyone knows by now the situation surrounding the COVID-19 virus and its effect on everyone’s daily lives is something most in our generation have never dealt with before,” said Snodgrass in his opening statement. “The effects on students both from a physical and mental standpoint are something that are an incredible impact that we, teachers and educators across the nation are left to deal with.” 

“One thing this crisis has brought out is how important schools and school activities are in the lives of students, the communities, parents and fans,” added Snodgrass. “That is something that does not go unnoticed at all.” 

Snodgrass noted that although their business is athletics, it was more important to understand that they were in the education business.

“High school sports, school-based sports, we are an extension of the classroom. We’re not the classroom itself,” said Snodgrass. “Sometimes in today’s world when sports dominates so much, people put high school sports on a pedestal that think its separate from the educational world. It’s very important our viewers, students, our coaches, everyone, understands, again, we’re an extension of the classroom.” 

Referencing Governor Mike DeWine’s decision to close schools one week ago today to increase social distancing, Snodgrass says the decision to postpone tournaments that were ongoing at the time were not made lightly. 

Snodgrass then referred to DeWine’s Mar. 18 update on COVID-19 that the virus was here and it must be combatted and said that he, and OHSAA, had a duty and responsibility to help in that fight. 

“All decisions aren’t going to be made on emotions,” Snodgrass said. “We have to make the best judgments we can make based upon fighting that war (against COVID-19) the Governor indicated.” 

The three week no contact period put in place by the OHSAA on Mar. 13 was done so to go hand in hand with encouraging the social distancing directive. 

Touching on the experience athletics provide for the opportunity to compete for a state title, Snodgrass did note that although the window of opportunity for winter sports was “closing rapidly,” the OHSAA was still on an “indefinite postponement.” 

Snodgrass explained there were many other variables that people didn’t realize including site availability, coach availability and people in the risk category that the OHSAA isn’t willing to put in danger of being affected by the virus. 

He also made it clear many of these decisions hinge on DeWine’s decision moving forward if schools end up being closed for a longer period of time than the three-week state wide mandate. 

Extending tournaments into the summer months, even into May, is problematic according to Snodgrass. He acknowledged he wouldn’t expect everyone to understand every reason why but he wasn’t willing to put member schools or sites at risk to explain it. 

“There are a lot of factors that enter in to the when, how and why we may end up having to cancel our winter tournaments,” said Snodgrass.

After being asked last Thursday if cancelation was on the table, Snodgrass said that he would be remissed not to say it wasn’t under consideration.

With the return to school date set for Apr. 6, the OHSAA released a plan last Friday of a tentative schedule for spring sports that allowed for a certain number of practices before a first contest with the state tournament on the same schedule. 

That decision could change overnight, again, all depending on the DeWine’s decision to extend school closures.

Snodgrass also wanted to make clear that the member schools will always be consulted with first before any public decisions are made regarding cancelations or extending postponements. 

Snodgrass then answered frequently asked questions from member schools. 

Athlete eligibility came up and unlike the collegiate levels, extended eligibility has not been a discussion. 

Snodgrass did note academic eligibility has been discussed and answers would be forthcoming soon should schools close for a longer period of time. 

The academic eligibility comes into play the next sport season, which would be fall, and because not all schools are on the same start schedule it depended on when schools ended their semesters. 

Those that finished their semester around Christmas time have ended their third quarter, others are still two weeks away. OHSAA eligibility requirements go back to the point of the grades of the previous grading period, students are required to pass five credit courses. 

“Where that is an issue is going into the fall, the previous grading period is the last quarter of this spring. Summer school grades do not count towards that,” said Snodgrass, noting the compliance team was working diligently on that issue. 

Snodgrass also said making every athlete eligible in the fall was on the table but didn’t commit to it either because of the need to wait and see what happens with the school year. 

Financial fallout of the cancelation was then brought up before media questions. 

The OHSAA, a non-profit, stands to lose $1.4 – $1.5 million from the revenue of the postponed winter sport tournament of a $19 million budget. 

80% of the OHSAA revenue is from ticket sales and Snodgrass said a team was working on how to deal with that fallout moving forward. 

Finally, media in attendance posed questions to Snodgrass.

When asked if there was hesitation in making the decision to cancel tournaments to at least provide closure, Snodgrass said it wasn’t so much about hesitation of being afraid to make the decision. 

Instead, he talked about how he’s told his staff to look at every possible opportunity. 

“Maybe something sticks that we can do,” said Snodgrass. “One of the important things I’ve stated is, ‘do not let our regulations and by laws.. don’t let them box us in on what were able to do. Think creatively.’ That's the only thing I'm holding onto right now, is that if it is inevitable, is there something creative we can do to give respect to the kids who have put in the efforts?”

When asked about a specific date with his earlier reference to the window rapidly closing for winter sport tournaments, Snodgrass said that the decision would most likely be made within the next 24-48 hours. 

“We have to,” said Snodgrass. “I think it’s imperative and we not procrastinate. I don’t want to lead people on, that’s the number one thing, and give them false hope.”  

Basketball wise, Snodgrass was asked if the poll champion would be declared the winner or no winner at all. Snodgrass said that hasn’t been yet  discussed but they’ve also talked about creative ways to recognize  the teams left in the post season. 

Another question asked if students were able to return by early-May, could winter tournaments be resumed by mid-May?

Snodgrass said off the top of his head probably not and talked about the impact on multisport athletes and  on spring sports if they were to continue. 

“I know it’s not a popular decision, but I would shoulder the responsibility,” said Snodgrass.

Snodgrass was asked how many student athletes had reached out to him personally about pleading their case to hopefully play again. 

“A lot” was the quick response from Snodgrass, he also added that one had said they would him personally responsible and he said he hoped they would. 

“I’ve done my part and this organizations part in getting athletics back,” said Snodgrass. “We will come back; school athletics will come back.” 

In his closing statement, Snodgrass reemphasized the emotional side that this issue has presented for the OHSAA. 

“We have to, as the governor said, it’s here and we have to fight the war,” said Snodgrass in closing. “We will do that.” 

For full video of the press conference visit this link: https://twitter.com/OHSAASports/status/1240670625703669761