The Ohio High School Athletic Association board of directors in a news release said fall sports seasons will go forward as planned, despite the increased cases of COVID-19 throughout the state.

That means low/non-contact sports and contact sports will be permitted to begin official practices Aug. 1, as had been previously announced, a July 31 news release said.

“It is important to keep athletic activity moving forward,” said Dan Leffingwell, president of the OHSAA board and superintendent of the Noble Local Schools in Sarahsville, in the release. “And with that, we believe our member schools provide our student-athletes with the safest possible environment to return to play and that our school programs are the best avenue to help students learn lifelong lessons and provide social, emotional and physical benefits that other programs cannot. Moving forward allows those students to continue to be engaged with their school coaches and teammates. Membership data also supports this decision.

“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. Should data on COVID-19 change and/or the governor’s office makes changes to our plan, we have flexibility that would allow us to look at implementing other models for our seasons.”

To the contrary, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health recommended that school districts begin the school year remotely and discontinue extracurricular activities, including sports, during that period.

Terry Allan, health commissioner for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, said during a July 31 press briefing that the county made the recommendation based on local data. Allan said the county board stands by its recommendations, and individual districts and state entities will make their decisions based on what they think is important as well.

The OHSAA news release also offered guidelines for specific styles of sports:

Low/non-contact sports (golf, girls tennis, volleyball)

• Official practices may begin Aug. 1.

• School vs. school scrimmages and/or contests will follow per their normal OHSAA permissible dates and regulations.

• Golf – One scrimmage permitted any time during season; first contest Aug. 5.

• Girls tennis – One scrimmage permitted after practice begins and prior to first match; first contest Aug. 7.

• Volleyball – Five scrimmages and one preview permitted after practice begins; first contest Aug. 21.

Football

• Official practices will begin Aug. 1, with the normal acclimatization period in place.

• No school versus school scrimmages are permitted.

• School versus school contests will follow per their normal OHSAA permissible dates and regulations with a target date of the week of Aug. 24. This date is subject to change and subject to the approval from the governor’s office/Ohio Department of Health and with the stipulation that COVID-19 testing will not be required.

Other contact sports (soccer, field hockey, cross-country)

• Practices will begin on Aug. 1, with the normal acclimatization period in place for cross country.

• No school versus school scrimmages are permitted in soccer or field hockey.

• School vs. school contests will follow per their normal OHSAA permissible dates and regulations with a target date of Aug. 21, for soccer and field hockey and Aug. 24, for cross country. These dates are subject to change and subject to the approval from the governor’s office/Ohio Department of Health and with the stipulation that COVID-19 testing will not be required.

Additional notes

• If contact sports are not approved for school versus school competition by Sept. 4, fall contact sports and remaining winter and spring sports will move to a condensed schedule that will take place between mid-December and the end of June. Fall non-contact sports would move forward as scheduled.

• If the fall seasons begin and, for some reason, are stopped but then resume, the OHSAA has plans to move to a modified fall sports season.

• If contact sports are approved for school vs. school competition, the OHSAA is prepared to set COVID-19-related requirements for schools to follow for competitions as requested by the governor’s office. The OHSAA will govern and issue consequences for the violation of these requirements as prescribed in OHSAA Bylaw 11, Penalties.

• Conversations with the governor’s office/Ohio Department of Health continue regarding the status of field hockey and/or cross country being placed into the low/non-contact category. The membership will be updated if that changes for either or both sports.

• The OHSAA continues with conversations with the governor’s office on its plans to ensure we are in concert.

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