Tournaments and seasons not cancelled, but director says window closing

The winter state tournaments and spring seasons are still postponed, not canceled. But the windows of opportunity are closing.

That’s part of what Ohio High School Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass shared during a press conference Thursday, adding that while emotions definitely play a big role, they won’t be the sole factor in deciding when high school athletics resume.

“All decisions are not going to be made upon emotions,” Snodgrass said. “We take them into consideration and we understand them, but we have to make the best judgments that we can make based upon fighting that war (against coronavirus), as the governor had indicated.”

Schools are closed for three weeks, with state tournaments for wrestling, hockey and girls basketball and the boys basketball regional tournaments all halted due to the outbreak of COVID-19, coronavirus.

Even if schools resume April 6 as planned, Snodgrass said resuming with the winter tournaments will be a challenge for several reasons — availability of facilities, officials and workers lead the list, with health risks also part of the equation.

He also said the possibility of Gov. Mike DeWine extending the school closings will also figure into whether the tournaments and seasons continue, but Snodgrass said he won’t shy away from making the decision on his own if need be.

In fact, he said it’s possible a decision on the winter sports tournaments could be made as soon as today or Saturday.

“We have to. I think it’s imperative that we have to (make a decision) and cannot procrastinate,” he said. “I do not want to lead people on, that’s the No. 1 thing. I do not want to do and give them false hope.”

Simply moving the dates of the winter tournaments later into the spring probably wouldn’t work, he said.

“I know that upsets many people, but again, there are so many factors,” Snodgrass said. “I know that’s not a popular decision, but that’s a decision that I would have to shoulder the responsibility for.”

And it looks to be an all-or-nothing choice for the winter.

While Snodgrass said he and his staff are exploring all options for the winter and spring sports, holding just one or some of the winter state tournaments while canceling the others is not one of them.

“I highly doubt that we would play one without the other,” Snodgrass said.

And it’s not a decision that would come lightly, he said.

Snodgrass said postponing the winter tournaments has cost the OHSAA $1.4 to $1.5 million dollars out of the organization’s $19 million budget.

“I found it amazing when somebody said when we postponed the winter tournaments, it was all about the money. I didn’t quite process that. If it was all about the money, we’d probably go on and have them no matter what,” he said.

“I think people sometimes don’t realize we are a business. We’re in the educational business, but we do not rely on tax dollars. I think a lot of people do not realize that,” he said. “We are a non-profit organization and 80% of our revenues, 80%, are generated from ticket sales.”

For spring sports, Snodgrass said it’s still feasible to begin practices in April, have contests in May and still maintain the original state championship schedules even if the school closure is extended another week.

“However, what will change that overnight will be any decision by the governor to extend the closure of schools,” he said. “And again, it doesn’t mean at this point with spring sports that we are canceling. But is canceling on the table? It absolutely has to be on the table.”

However, he said some schools could be forced to extend their school day in order to meet the minimum requirement of yearly instructional hours for students.

“That could have a huge impact on extracurricular activities,” he said.

On a personal note, Snodgrass said he’s had several students contact him via social media throughout the ordeal. Their reactions have been, he said, understandably mixed about the tournaments and seasons being postponed.

“One told them they hold me personally responsible for that experience, and I did reply. And I hope they do, I hope they hold me personally responsible that I’ve done my part and this organization’s part in getting athletics back, and I think that’s important,” he said.

“And I also want to say that we will come back. Athletics will come back, school athletics will come back. And now more than ever, we need to be unified, from our schools and from our coaches, to get them back,” he said. “It will emphasize the good things in high school sports and I think that’s something that will rise out of this.”