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GWOC to play conference-only schedule in all fall sports

Springfield players take the field for a game against Xenia on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, at Evans Stadium in Springfield. David Jablonski/Staff
Springfield players take the field for a game against Xenia on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, at Evans Stadium in Springfield. David Jablonski/Staff

The Greater Western Ohio Conference announced Thursday it will play conference-only schedules in all fall sports in 2020. The decision applies only to regular-season games. GWOC teams can still compete in the postseason.

“The Greater Western Ohio Conference (GWOC) Superintendents and Executive Board recently met to discuss the upcoming fall athletic season in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Commissioner Eric Spahr said in a statement. “Since the COVID-19 pandemic there have been many changes to our way of life and the GWOC is adapting to those changes. As such the GWOC has made the decision that all athletic contests played during the fall athletic season will be played against GWOC member schools only. This applies to all sports. This was a difficult decision but one that was made in the best interest of our student-athletes. The primary focus is to provide the student-athletes every opportunity to compete and this decision helps achieve that. While we realize challenges await we will remain flexible and adaptable to inevitable challenges that await as we navigate the pandemic.”

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The decision came about after two days and about six hours of meetings at Beavercreek High School on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Overall everyone is on the same page,” said Beavercreek Athletic Director Brad Pompos said. “It was really productive. We just feel it’s the best move for our kids to preserve the season with everything that’s going on. Multiple teams in our league had started to lose games off their schedule.”

Middletown suspended sports because of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, and Hilliard was among the schools in the Columbus area to make the same decision.

The decision by the GWOC, which includes Centerville, Beavercreek, Wayne, Springfield, Fairmont, Northmont, Miamisburg and Springboro, doesn’t guarantee there will be a fall sports season, but it keeps open the possibility.

Some sports are still in limbo because they have not gotten approval from the state to compete this fall. Football, soccer, field hockey and cross country fall into the contact sports category. The state has approved competition in golf, girls tennis and volleyball. The Ohio High School Athletic Association is also talking about moving field hockey and/or cross country into the low/non-contact category.

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The GWOC is working on updating its fall schedules. It will move the seven-game football schedule forward so everyone starts play Aug. 28.

“That gives us three weeks on the back end in case there would be any issues,” Centerville AD Rob Dement said. “If everything worked out perfectly and we got our seven games in, we would look at the possibility of playing additional games.”

Any additional games wouldn’t count in the conference standings, Dement said.

Other sports will start in August but later than scheduled. Golf teams could compete as early as Aug. 5. They will now start Aug. 17. Soccer and volleyball will start Aug. 24 instead of Aug. 21.

The decision to play only conference games was inspired in part by the power five conferences in college football making the same move. The reasoning is the same.

“We’re trying to figure out a way to create systems and protocols to keep our kids as safe as possible,” Dement said. “We can agree on processes we’re going to use when we travel to each other’s venues. It just made sense to do this.”

Spahr said the conference was also hesitant to send its teams to other areas of the state, knowing the risk of contracting COVID-19 or spreading it would be greater. By staying within the four counties in which GWOC schools are located — Montgomery, Greene, Clark and Warren — the risk is smaller.

“We’re going to handle decisions in house, and we’ll have to make decisions on the fly,” Spahr said. “It’s going to be a moving target. Things are going to change daily and rapidly.”