COLUMBUS – What some thought was a massive sport shutdown turned into a 22-minute perk-up talk about wearing masks and social distancing when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine spoke to the state on Wednesday night.
Instead, after a board of directors meeting on Thursday, fall sports still see their official start date on August 1, according to Southwest Ohio board members Jan Wilking, Wyoming sporting director and Scott Kaufman, Lakota West sporting director.
“The same message has been going on for several weeks, and we plan to start the sport on August 1st,” said Wilking. “The governor has return to play policies and protocols that we would like to share with schools. He understands the importance of what school athletics means to the social welfare of children. We hope these guidelines provide him with the comfort he needs So that we can practice contact sports, let’s go. “
However, roadblocks could emerge, especially if some key counties fail to improve their numbers in the fight against the new coronavirus.
An Ohio Department of Health map now lists 19 districts labeled “red” (Level 3). This means that activities should be limited and exposure is high. Level 1 is active exposure and least threat, with the closest county in “yellow” being Brown County. Orange Level 2 means increased exposure and caution, which is the case in neighboring Warren and Clinton counties.
Crucial for Greater Cincinnati is that Hamilton, Butler and Clermont counties sit on red level 3, despite Governor DeWine on Thursday that Hamilton and Butler have been removed from the watchlist. The next level would be level 4 purple, which means leaving home for supplies and services only. Moving up to Level 4 Purple could theoretically stop college sports in these counties, which are all major metropolitan areas in Ohio.
In addition to Hamilton, Butler, and Clermont of Greater Cincinnati, Dayton’s Montgomery County is also red. This also applies to Franklin, Pickaway, Delaware, Licking, Union and Fairfield (Columbus), Wood (Toledo), Lorain, Cuyahoga and Summit (Cleveland / Akron) and Trumbull County (Youngstown).
These districts are responsible for an abundance of football talent, as La Salle, Trotwood-Madison, and Pickerington Central were all state champions and Elder runners-up last December. The senior high schools of Lucas and Mansfield were also state finalists from “red” Richland County, as was the Newark Licking Valley from “red” Licking County.
In Athens County, near Ohio University, they are approaching level 4 purple status faster than others as of the governor’s July 16 update.
Should the “reds” rise to “purple”, some schools could continue to practice according to the current guidelines, while others will be closed like last spring.
“If schools and local health authorities allow gambling, they will play,” said Wilking. “If there are schools in places where the local health department says you can’t, we have to follow what the local health department says.”
Scott Kaufman, Sporting Director of Lakota West, would shut down the school should Butler County reach Level 4. On the other hand, the Firebirds have not had any COVID-19 cases attributed to their training that began before Memorial Day.
“Everything we’ve done since March was in response to the governor,” Kaufman said. “If the governor turns us off, we’ll take a break. Then we’ll wait for him to bring us back and hopefully everyone will wear their masks and wash their hands and take the precautions to bring the numbers down.”
A variety of topics were discussed on Thursday, but the common theme was to work towards a start date for the fall sport on August 1st, as OHSAA Provisional Executive Director Bob Goldring mentioned in his press conference on Tuesday.
The number of fans may be reduced, but most decision-makers seem to be opposed to switching spring and fall sports.
“We have to push the fall forward,” said Kaufman. “The kids deserve to play. Every clue I get is that everyone wants them to play. Pediatricians’ associations have said they want children to play. Governors have said they want children in school Professionals have said they want kids to be in school I think the past few weeks have shown us that we can take some really good precautions and keep the kids and coaches safe and I think our data reflects that. “
Wilking backed up Kaufman’s thoughts. While it may not be a traditional fall season, the OHSAA board on Thursday reviewed the preference for masks, cleanings, and the traditional guidelines.
“Nobody wants to do more sport than the coaches, the children and the families,” said Wilking. “I think they will do what they have to do to contain this virus. The research is so clear what athletics means for teenagers. It is our job as adults to make this opportunity as safe as possible for them.”