OHSAA announces indefinite postponement continues for winter sports championships

Decision could be made in next 24-48 hours

Jerry Snodgrass has spent plenty of time communicating with colleagues from the Ohio High School Athletic Association, high school administrators and coaches from around the state since March 12 when he announced the indefinite postponement of the winter sports championships.

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Snodgrass, executive director of the OHSAA, also has heard often directly from athletes. He’s an easy man to find via the OHSAA website or on Twitter.

“They’ve really reached out,” Snodgrass said. “One told me they hold me personally responsible for that experience, and I did reply. I hope they hold me personally responsible — that I’ve done my part to get athletics back. I think that’s important. We will come back. School athletics will come back. Now more than ever, we need to be unified with our schools and coaches to get them back.”

The question is when they will come back. Snodgrass spoke at a press conference Thursday at OHSAA headquarters — the number of media allowed to attend was limited because of the coronavirus pandemic — to announce the winter championships remain indefinitely postponed, while the status of spring sports depend on when and if students around the state return to school.

“I know the emotion that goes with it,” Snodgrass said. “I keep stressing that. When I was coaching, I went to the gym every single day with one goal in mind and that was to get to the state tournament. That’s being denied, but I’ll emphasize again, what’s being denied is something bigger than all of us.”

Much of what the OHSAA decides depends on Gov. Mike DeWine’s recommendations. He closed schools this week through at least April 6 but said he may end up closing them for the rest of the academic year. That would force the OHSAA’s hand. For now, though, it’s holding out hope of getting the athletes back on the courts, ice, tracks and playing fields and letting them compete for championships.

Snodgrass acknowledged, however, the window is closing.

“We will be making a decision on the winter sports probably within the next 24-48 hours,” he said. “We have to. I think it’s imperative. We can not procrastinate. I don’t want to lead people on and give them false hope.”

That means there’s a very real chance the wrestling, ice hockey and boys and girls basketball tournaments, all of which had reached various stages when they were postponed March 12, won’t continue.

“I was asked last Thursday if cancelling was on the table,” he said. “Cancelling is on the table. Everything is on the table.”

Pushing the winter championships into May or the summer months would be problematic, Snodgrass said, for a variety of reasons. He cited the availability of coaches and venues and the issue of putting officials, many of whom are in an age bracket that would put them at a higher risk of being seriously affected by COVID-19, at risk as some of the big problems.

“I don’t expect every parent, every fan to understand every reason why,” Snodgrass said, “but I will not put our schools or our venues or sites at risk.”

In wrestling, weight management is a huge issue, Snodgrass said. There were 621 wrestlers from 300 schools competing in the state tournament.

“Asking them to maintain (weight) during this time when they have no workout facility,” Snodgrass said, “and to assume everyone has the opportunity in their home or their driveway to stay in shape is probably not possible.”

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended this week cancelling all events of 50 or more people until early May. That would making staging wrestling tournaments any sooner than that difficult. Splitting the many tournaments into smaller sites would be a tough task for many reasons, too.

Among the other key points from the press conference were:

Snodgrass answered a number of frequently asked questions the OHSAA has received from around the state. One of them was about the idea of continuing with one or several winter championship but cancelling others.

“If cancelling is required, they would most likely all be cancelled,” he said. “I highly doubt we would play one without the other.”

• Snodgrass shot down the idea of high school athletes affected by the possible cancellations getting an extra year of eligibility.

• The OHSAA could lose as much as $1.5 million if the winter championships are cancelled or held without fans. That’s out of a budget of $19 million.

“We’re in the education business,” Snodgrass said, “but we do not rely on tax dollars. We are a non-profit organization. Eighty percent of our revenue is generated from ticket sales.”


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