OHSAA: Football coaches' proposal to move sports won't go to board of directors

ThisWeek Sports Staff
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A group of central Ohio high school football coaches proposed moving football from fall to spring and making other changes to the 2020-21 sports calendar, but an Ohio High School Athletic Association administrator said July 13 that the proposal will not be forwarded to the OHSAA board of directors.

"We are planning, in concert with the governor’s office, for an Aug. 1 start," Beau Rugg, the football administrator for the OHSAA, said in an email to ThisWeekSPORTS.com. "This will not go before the board of directors. We will inform the board of any change in plans that would be prompted by governor’s orders."

A day earlier, director of communications Tim Stried said the OHSAA planned "to move forward with an Aug. 1 start day for all fall sports.”

Concerns over the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and whether contact sports will be allowed this fall prompted the proposal, according to the coaches, who shared details with ThisWeekSPORTS.com on the condition of anonymity.

The coaches said they shared their proposal with the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association and Rugg.

In a statement July 12, the OHSFCA said it "makes proposals to the OHSAA regarding football" and "we have been guaranteed a ‘seat at the table’ if/when decisions need to be made about adjusting the football season."

The organization's statement added: "While we wait for further information from the governor’s office, we are in agreement with the OHSAA for the starting date of Aug. 1. The OHSFCA will continue to be proactive as we gather information regarding other possible changes during these unprecedented times."

The coaches’ proposal included a fall season of baseball, field hockey, golf, softball, tennis, track and field and volleyball, a winter season of basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey and wrestling and a spring season of cross country, football, lacrosse and soccer. The proposal failed to mention swimming and diving, which is held in the winter.

OHSAA interim executive director Bob Goldring clarified last week that volleyball officially is considered a non-contact sport, meaning competition can begin. The OHSAA sanctions girls volleyball in the fall but not boys volleyball in the spring.

Other non-contact sports are baseball, golf, softball, swimming and diving, tennis and track and field.

A category for cross country has yet to be decided, according to Goldring.

In their proposal, the coaches outlined a possible schedule for spring football, with practices beginning Feb. 1, scrimmages starting Feb. 15 and a six-week regular season kicking off Feb. 26. A seven-week postseason would begin April 9 -- with every team in Ohio qualifying -- and end with the state finals May 20-22.

Under this proposal, the coaches also suggested a seven-game 2021 regular season beginning Sept. 17.

The coaches said they feared a “wait-and-see approach will be a strategy to delay the inevitable of canceling contact/current fall sports.” They wrote it was their “responsibility to plan and take action. We have lost the benefit of time that we once had.”

In terms of what may change between now and Feb. 1, their proposal noted the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine or, in the absence of a vaccine, more would be known about how to treat the virus and mitigate it within schools and the community.

If nothing has changed “then we tried our best and we took intelligent action to make it work,” the coaches said.

“A real honest conversation weighing everything has to take place and I’m not sure it has,” Dublin Jerome football coach Bob Gecewich said. “Regardless of how you believe the fall and school year are going to play out or what the final decision is going to be, not having a contingency plan to consider and discuss is not OK. Some coaches stepped up and brought something to the table considering as many factors as possible.”

Hilliard Davidson boys lacrosse coach Adam Beasley said having football, lacrosse and soccer in the same season would create other problems.

“These are challenging times for everyone and the focus needs to be on our student-athletes first,” he said. “However, (having) soccer, football and lacrosse in the same season (would) add significant restraints on field space and turf time. Coaches (would) have to be creative to get practice and games scheduled with that much usage of facilities.”

Westerville Central football coach Brent Morrison noted many athletes normally play football in the fall and lacrosse in the spring.

“In these challenging times we need creative solutions. If spring football gives us the best opportunity to get all sports played this year, then I would support it,” he said. “My biggest concern would be lacrosse and football being in the same season. We have guys that have grown up playing both sports and I would hate to make an athlete pick between the two, especially a senior. Whatever decision is made, we will adapt and make the best of it.”

Upper Arlington baseball coach Sam Clark said there would be issues with having a fall baseball season, including pitchers having tired arms after competing in the summer and how late into the fall baseball could be played considering diminishing daylight in September and October.

"It would present a lot of challenges,” he said. “I don't want to say anything is impossible, but whatever is done has to be in the best interest of the athletes. I hope that's what will be the driving factor."

Olentangy Orange track coach Adam Walters said “the biggest challenge is whether sports still happen. Can we have remote learning and find a way to do non-contact sports outside safely?

“If college football is struggling to handle it this fall, there is no way high schools can have it.”

He also noted spring athletes would lose out on another season if their sports are moved to fall and then canceled. The pandemic forced the OHSAA to cancel the 2020 spring season.

Thomas Worthington football coach Mike Picetti expressed reservations about moving that sport to the spring.

"I think we as coaches have to be open about anything at this point. The thing that I think really needs to be taken into consideration is if you move it to the spring, you'll never be able to move it back to the fall. That'll never happen," he said. "I think that's something people aren't looking at, I honestly do. I think we're all wanting a season, we're all wanting some form of a season and I'm in the same boat. (But) if we do that, there's no way we'll ever be able to move it back."

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