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OHSAA marches forward with athletics

During his Tuesday media briefing, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that he would permit winter sports to continue.

That, however, was just the first hurdle for basketball, wrestling, swimming and bowling.

The second hurdle was cleared Wednesday morning when the OHSAA informed the membership that it planned to march forward with winter sports as scheduled, which means girls basketball can begin competing this Friday.

OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute, who has been on the job for just a few months, issued this statement in the correspondence with the schools:

“As we have said previously, our member schools provide our student-athletes with the safest possible environment to continue participating. If we were to delay, our students will find opportunities to compete in sports through non-school programs that may not be focused on safety and are not education-based. We will continue to study the data on COVID-19 and continue in discussions with the Governor’s Office to determine if we need to make changes to our seasons. If we do, we believe we have flexibility that would allow us to look at implementing other models for our seasons.”

While sports can commence and continue, the biggest hurdle – COVID-19 – still clearly remains an issue.

Numbers continue to surge locally and throughout Ohio at an alarming rate. Ohio reported more than 6,300 new COVID cases Wednesday evening. The announcement was delayed by several hours because of what DeWine deemed a “technical glitch.”

The OHSAA did consult its membership once again before issuing its guidance.

The OHSAA surveyed the superintendents, principals and athletic administrators to get their feeling.

They offered three different options to vote on.

There were only 1,464 votes cast and 56% were in favor of moving forward as currently planned.

There were 33% of the voters in favor of delaying winter sports until January and the final 11% favored suspending immediately and beginning if and when conditions change.

The majority of the votes (764) returned came from athletic administrators.

To help slow the tide, DeWine issued a three-week curfew on Tuesday, which takes effect tonight at 10 p.m., that limits people from being outside of their homes from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m.. There are a handful of reasons, including medical purposes, work, grocery stores and even picking up food at restaurant.

Because of the curfew, and its desire to fall in line with the governor’s mandates, OHSAA also included in the release that coaches and athletic administrators remind student-athletes that “once the contest ends or schools return from road trips, everyone should go home and not congregate at someone’s house or local restaurant.”

Attendance mandates also remain in place. In events in a gymnasium, it will continue to be 15% or 300 people max, whichever is the smaller number. Similar to fall sports, athletes, coaches, officials, game workers, media, cheerleaders and pep band members do not count toward that number.

Locally, several schools have been dealing with both positive cases and quarantines, which has led to a majority of schools shifting to remote learning.

Because of those reasons there are some schools that delayed practices for all of their winter sports. Some, however, have opted to allow the teams that are able to move forward with their preparation.

All of the originally scheduled girls basketball games for Friday have been postponed.

Look for continued schedule jockeying as the season moves forward, too. As was the case during the fall, both the governor and the OHSAA are leaving the decisions about playing up to each individual district.

It also should be noted that any student-athlete, in Ohio, who tests positive for COVID-19, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic will not be permitted to return to his or her team and begin competition until he or she is cleared medically by a doctor. And part of medical check must include an assessment of the “cardiac heart of high intensity exercise due to potential of myocarditis occurring in COVID-19 patients.”

While the area schools’ focus shifts to winter sports, this is the final weekend of fall sports in Ohio, too.

The final six state football championship games will be played Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Fortress Obetz in Columbus. Because of the new curfew, the OHSAA has altered the announced start times of the title game.

The Friday games which are Division VII and II will kickoff at 1:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m., respectively.

On Saturday, the Division V and III kickoff times are 1:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m., respectively.

Sunday’s games, which are Divisions IV and VI will begin at 12:15 p.m. and 5:15 p.m., respectively.

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