Athens High School

The lights were on at Athens High School’s Joe Burrow Stadium on Monday, as schools across Ohio honored the class of 2020. The Ohio High School Athletic Association has canceled the spring sports season, ending the high school careers of the graduating class.

High school stadiums were lit up across the state on Monday, communities across the region coming together to celebrate the class of 2020.

So much has already been lost in the last six weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Ohio’s spring sports season was the latest cancelation.

Ohio High School Athletic Association Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass sent a memo to member schools on Monday, stating that the spring sports season has been canceled.

The OHSAA then sent out an official release on Tuesday, confirming that there will be no high school sports season this spring. The decision comes on the heels of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine closing schools for the rest of the school year.

Snodgrass had stated in previous memos and releases that in order for the spring sports season to go on, that schools would have to go back in session.

DeWine officially announced his decision during his daily press conference on Monday. The schools received notice of the cancelation hours later.

The press release wrote that, “For weeks, the OHSAA has communicated with schools that spring sports would be canceled if school facilities were closed. In addition to facilities not being opened, it would be impossible to ensure the health and safety of all individuals and support personnel involved in practices and contests at all member schools.”

State tournaments for baseball, softball, track and field, boys’ tennis and lacrosse are lost for the year.

“As we have stated in our previous communications, today’s announcement by Governor DeWine to close schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year also will now result in the cancellation of OHSAA-sponsored spring sports seasons including tournaments,” Snodgrass wrote in Monday’s memo.

While some hope remained that the spring high school season could still be played, Monday’s announcement seemed like a formality. The sports world in general has stopped since the National Basketball Association suspended its season on March 11, nearly every sporting league at every level following suit the next day.

The OHSAA’s last games of the 2019-20 school year were played on that Wednesday night, March 11. Snodgrass announced the postponement of the remaining winter sports tournaments the next day, mere minutes before the tip-off of the girls’ state basketball tournament.

The dominoes have continued to fall ever since, as the coronavirus problem continues to grow. The spring sports seasons were indefinitely postponed on March 13, the start date for practices announced as April 6.

The winter tournaments were officially canceled on March 26. According to the OHSAA, it marked the first cancelation of a state tournament since World War II.

Now the entire spring season will join in that distinction. The season had been postponed back to a May 4 start at the earliest, with state tournaments pushing back into late June.

The OHSAA’s mandatory no-contact period will remain in place until at least May 3, but could be extended further.

“I’ve heard from so many people who have said ‘You really need to understand what this means to our kids,’” Snodgrass said in the release. “I’m a parent. I was a coach. I grew up every day as a player and a coach wanting to play high school sports and get to the state tournament. So I do think I understand that. I also have to go with the fact that my number one concern that I have, over everything, is the health and safety of everyone involved. It’s not just our student-athletes. It’s the parents, coaches, umpires, officials, the scorekeepers. All those things enter into this. It’s a tough decision and it’s one that I and all the other Executive Directors of the other states never thought we would have to do. Never did I think this would be the case, but I’ve tried to be as prepared as I could every step of the way.”

The Tri-Valley Conference was prepared had the season been played. The league came up with a revised league schedule last week, as TVC-Ohio and TVC-Hocking games would have started on May 9. The league season would have continued into June.

Those league races won’t play out, as the league won’t be able to crown TVC champions in baseball, softball or track and field for the 2020 spring season.

The next step of the process for the OHSAA in terms of high school sports will be the summer and fall seasons. June is a big month for off-season high school basketball activities, with football passing scrimmages getting underway in July and fall sports practices beginning in August.

“July is a very physical month for our student-athletes entering fall sports, so we have already started looking at, if this continues through the summer, we’ll have the potential of having a lot of kids who haven’t had the physical activity that they would normally have going into a fall season,” Snodgrass said. “So for the health and safety of everyone, we have to look at the acclimation periods going into the fall, if that happens. We have to be prepared for that. We’re also talking about that, if this does go through the summer, what is the likelihood that a student can get in to get a physical (annual medical exam). We have a sport medicine advisory group that is looking at that. They are looking at all aspects such as whether artificial surfaces need to be treated. We are relying on the advice of experts in our decision making.”

Email at kwiseman@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @KevinWmessenger

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