In the days since the Ohio High School Athletic Association indefinitely postponed the four remaining winter tournaments and the start of spring sports, executive director Jerry Snodgrass has received feedback from numerous student-athletes, families and fans.
One athlete held Snodgrass “personally responsible” for suspending the rest of the winter postseason because of the coronavirus on March 12, moments before the state girls basketball tournament was to begin at St. John Arena.
The decision to postpone the state girls basketball, state wrestling and state hockey tournaments and the boys basketball postseason at the regional level isn’t one that came lightly for the longtime administrator and former coach.
“I want to emphasize the fact that this is emotional for everyone,” Snodgrass said. “This is our life, too. What we do every single day is work for our kids. … It’s here and we have to fight the war and we will do that. Everyone watching this understands how rapidly moving and fluid this whole situation has been.
“I hope they hold me responsible for getting athletics back. Athletics will come back, and now more than ever, we need to be unified to get them back. It will emphasize the good things in high school sports. I think that’s something that will rise out of this.”
During a press conference March 19, Snodgrass said that prep sports would remain on hold until April 6, when students are allowed to return to school, barring any changes announced by Gov. Mike DeWine.
On March 13, the OHSAA implemented a mandatory “no-contact” period from March 17 through April 5 for spring athletes and coaches and left the door open that the winter sports postseason could be resumed.
If the mandate for students to remain away from school is extended past April 5, the chances of completing the remaining winter tournaments would significantly decrease.
“While the window of opportunity for our winter tournaments is closing rapidly, we still remain that they are on an indefinite postponement,” Snodgrass said. “We do that for a simple reason: While again, the window is closing, we also realize there are so many other factors that other people do not realize (such as) site availability, coaches availability, keeping in mind our officials. There are people in the risk category that we cannot and will not subject to being faced with being infected by this virus. There are many factors with this. Much of this hinges on future decisions by the governor on whether we close schools for a longer period of time.”>> Athletes, coaches holding out hope <<
The only central Ohio teams to qualify for the state girls basketball tournament, which was to be held March 12-14, were two-time defending Division III state champion Africentric and Newark in Division I.
The New Albany hockey team was set to make its first appearance at the state tournament, which was to be held March 14 and 15 at Nationwide Arena.
There were 25 wrestling programs in the ThisWeek coverage area with at least one qualifier for the state tournament, which was to be held March 13-15 at Value City Arena.
In boys basketball, Hilliard Bradley, Westerville Central and Thomas Worthington in Division I, Beechcroft in Division II, Harvest Prep in Division III and Grandview and Wellington in Division IV all were still alive.
If the state tournaments for those four sports were to be canceled, Snodgrass said it would cost the OHSAA approximately $1.5 million. He said he doesn’t envision a scenario in which some of the winter tournaments would be completed while others wouldn’t be.
If the winter tournaments in girls basketball, boys basketball, hockey and wrestling are not completed, how those athletes and teams would be honored by the OHSAA has yet to be determined.
“There are (more than 600) wrestlers and 300 schools that are part of the state tournament,” Snodgrass said. “Moving a sport like that, everything from the suggestion of splitting it up into different sites, it’s very difficult with the number of weight classes. It does not negate the emotional feeling we all have relative to those wrestlers who have done so much. Weight management is a huge issue for wrestlers, asking them to maintain that during this time where they really technically have no workout facilities.
“When you combine that with everything else, the decision will be coming soon, but will be tied to the other sports.”
If students are allowed to return to school April 6, spring sports would have mandatory practices and/or acclimatization from April 6-10, with scrimmages and regular-season contests allowed to begin April 11 and the state tournaments would be completed as currently scheduled.
The postseason for the spring sports currently is set to begin in the second full week of May.
According to Snodgrass, issues involving fall sports have yet to be addressed.
“Even if the extension of school closures is a week, we would have room (to have a spring season),” Snodgrass said. “Right now, our state baseball tournament is (June 11-13) and we could probably extend that, but again you’re talking about site availability. I was asked (March 12) if canceling is on the table. Canceling is on the table. Everything is on the table. I would be remiss if I did not say that. … We disseminated to our schools on (March 13) a tentative schedule for our spring sports. With schools being out as of this moment until April 6 when they return, we put a plan together that would include a period of time where we’d like practices to begin before they have their first contests and our state tournaments to be on the same schedule. However, what will change that overnight will be any decision by the governor to extend the closure of schools.”