State coaches association remains opposed to high school football in spring

The OHSAA and the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association have shot down a suggestion to move football and some other sports to next spring while playing some spring sports this fall.

ThisWeekNews in Columbus created a stir online Sunday when it published a report citing interest in such moves among at least some Central Ohio football coaches.

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The OHSAA responded by reiterating the organization “is proceeding as if fall sports occur as planned, meaning official practices will begin on Aug. 1 and we will conduct our usual series of tournaments in our 10 fall sports.”

The statement concluded with a reminder that has become all-too-familiar since the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports across the country in March.

“As we all have seen during this pandemic, those plans can be modified or quickly canceled.”

Tom Pavlansky, the president of the OHSFCA, acknowledged a need to be ready to anticipate any changes in the coming weeks but for now remains focused on playing this fall.

“I feel comfortable saying that the membership wants to play in the fall, and that’s where we want it to be,” Pavlansky said in a phone interview Monday. “Obviously things can change, but we want to be here in the fall.

“We had a meeting last week, and a large majority of our directors who represent the entire state said we prefer a season this fall. There’s some strings attached to that. We all know the government can tell us tomorrow we’re shut down.”

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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health have allowed youth and high school sports to return on a tiered basis over the past two months, but they have not clear the way for inter-squad games in contact sports such as football.

Noncontact and “low-contact” sports resumed May 26 with “skills-based training” for all sports allowed as of June 1.

While baseball and softball games have been allowed essentially all summer, contact sports were not allowed to have scrimmages or intra-squad competitions until June 22.

The state sanctioned intersquad games in contact sports last week, but only on a temporary basis.

“In this whole scenario, the one thing that’s been constant is it’s a fluid process,” said Pavlansky, who is the football coach at Cortland Lakeview in Trumbull County in the Northeast District. “It is an unprecedented process, and everybody’s got to understand that. It’s fluid, and it’s unprecedented. Hopefully we’re gonna make the best decisions for the health and safety of the kids and for the sports that are that are impacted.”

The scenario floated by Central Ohio coaches included moving football, lacrosse, soccer and cross country to the spring with baseball, softball, field hockey, golf, tennis, volleyball and track and field played in the fall because those sports are already allowed by the state.

The proposal, which was not formally proposed to the OHSAA because it was not sanctioned by the OHSFCA, included a six-week regular season for football with a seven-week postseason and would necessitate a shortened season in the fall of 2021, too.

The idea of flipping seasons had already been tossed around as Ohio has experienced an increase in testing and positive cases over the past few weeks, though local athletic directors expressed opposition to such a plan in interviews last week.

“I definitely do not think putting football in the spring is an option,” Northmont Athletic Director Micah Harding said. “We have two kids right now (Michigan verbal commits Markus Allen and Rod Moore) that are Division I commits that are graduating in December. They wouldn’t even be around for their senior year of football. And if you want to tell (our other players) you’re going to play football in the spring and end the season in May or June and then you’re going to turn around and be back and playing against in August? That doesn’t give recovery time for anybody who’s injured, and it’s just not likely that’s going to be a good fit for any kid.”

Flipping sports also raises the possibility of spring athletes having not only their junior but also their senior seasons wiped out if the coronavirus outlook worsens in coming weeks and everything has to be called off again.

“My daughter plays volleyball, basketball and softball,” Pavlansky said. “And I don’t want her to miss any more seasons, you know? So it’s a challenging time and a fluid time. It’s unprecedented, and everybody’s gotta understand that.”

He said they would consider changing the calendar if it became necessary based on orders from DeWine and ODH, but the association would cross that bridge only when or if it came to it.

“We’re all in the same boat: We’re waiting for information from the governor’s office, and we’re waiting for information coming from the medical people, and so on,” Pavlansky said. “We’ve got to do we can, and right now we’ve been told Aug. 1 is the day. Let’s get ready for Aug. 1 until they tell us differently.”

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