IHSA's Craig Anderson & OHSAA's Jerry Snodgrass

(5-17-20) 2020 will long be remembered in high school athletics as the year of the ‘virus’ that wiped out state basketball tournaments and all spring sports. As we near the end of May we now see concerns for fall sports, especially those that are played indoors and those that have contact.

NOTE: Be sure to read these two articles for complete insight – The Risk Of Indecision…On ‘Fall Sports’    and – Q&A with Craig Anderson: Football in spring? Overlap with club? Getting back to business? IHSA executive director discusses possibilities.

With fall sports season just a little more than two months away, concerns are mounting when and if there will be a football season this fall. Two of the many states facing that issue is Ohio and Illinois. Both states have taken different paths and directions with their concerns. One thing they both have in common is football…and the impact that it has on their associations.

Two veteran sports writers (Sonny Fulks and Rick Anderson), one from each state, recently did Q&A’s with the Executive Directors of their state associations.

Ohio

Sonny Fulks from pressprosmagazine.com asked Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Jerry Snodgrass (phone interview) this fall and what the OHSAA faces in the upcoming football season in his posting – The Risk Of Indecision…On ‘Fall Sports’.

Below are four quotes by Snodgrass to Fulks in his posting on the current situation.

“I can’t tell you. I don’t even have an instinct, because we have to rely on the recommendations of a governing body (the Governor and the Director of Health). We take our cue from both of them. People have this misconception that I can just institute fall sports, winter sports, and spring sports arbitrarily because of my leadership role. But I don’t have the ability to do that. People don’t have to agree with it, but that’s the way it is.”

“I don’t even have an instinct, regarding 30, 60, or 90 days from now. I don’t think anyone does. Yesterday announcement by the Governor…I didn’t expect that, even an hour before he did it. So from our perspective, we just have to plan for everything.”

Concerns from football coaches about the situation includes what if football is cancelled and what devastating implications in the future could take place.

“All of those scenarios enter in,  We’re aware of them. But what’s that mean to us? We still can’t act contrary to the Governor’s decision and the Department of Health because of that possibility. And that’s not what any of these decisions were based on in the first place. There’s all kinds of fallout possible with this situation. And, there’s a lot of people out there looking for scapegoats…someone to blame. People have told me I killed more people by cancelling spring sports than the virus did. That goes with the territory, don’t get me wrong. But it’s disheartening to think of looking for someone to blame. No one’s to blame. It’s just the coronavirus and what science tells us to do in order to be safe.”

“But it’s not a matter of indecision. I’m no scientist, but people in those roles are. So, we’re left with picking up the pieces and trying to plan with every possible thing we know. I understand the impatience and the frustration. I appreciate the differences in opinion. But I hope people don’t blame, because the other good side is that people learn to deal with it.”

 

“Well, It comes down to three things. One, it will depend upon school facilities being opened up. We don’t control that. Two, it will depend upon the school buildings being opened, because that has to do with locker rooms and other stuff in many cases. And three, it will depend on what the guidelines are – if social distancing is required from players and officials. If it is there’s no way you can do it. As I see it, those three things will be the determining factors.”

In The Chronicle article from this past week school adminstrators were thrown a curve ball.

That relationship was tested Thursday afternoon when Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the state never forced high schools to close their athletic facilities, only the school buildings where children congregated for classes.

All of this is taking place while the OHSAA is following what Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Health Department’s Dr. Amy Acton are ordering, however; there seems to have been no communication between the two groups at all on many of the subjects during the pandemic.

 

That continues as the OHSAA has not been contacted in helping with current considerations and safety suggestions moving forward with fall sports in Ohio.

Illinois

In Illinois Rick Anderson writing for the Chicago Tribune talks with the Illinois High School Association’s Craig Anderson in his posting – Q&A with Craig Anderson: Football in spring? Overlap with club? Getting back to business? IHSA executive director discusses possibilities.

While Ohio is waiting on the go-ahead and indicators for resuming athletics this fall from the Governor, Illinois has been looking at aspects of what can be accomplished and discussing different scenarios.

Illinois is currently on a ‘Stay At Home‘ order by Governor JB Pritzker, the Governor has also considered making schools start the fall out online, to avoid safety issues. This does put Illinois at least a few weeks behind Ohio in moving forward.

How many plans for this fall have been drawn up over the past couple of months?

We have a number of things just thrown on paper, and we continue to discuss them. At this point, we’re really not taking anything off the table of possibility, whether it be a modified season, a modified state series, a flip-flop of seasons that would create all kinds of chaos.

The key for me is when we’re able to allow students to get back in connection with one another in an activity setting. As soon as it’s possible and safe for our students to do so, we want to get it underway.

Where does football stand in the IHSA;s thought process?

I’m hopeful we could resume at some point in August. I’m hopeful of a fall season with a state championship series. Honestly, I don’t know how realistic or unrealistic that is. But where I sit in the middle of May, my hope is still for the anticipation of a fall football state series. I know there could be parts of that with limited attendance and maybe with no spectator attendance. But I’m still hopeful we can have a championship in November, recognizing that is just one possibility.

How important is football in the grand scheme of things?

It’s critical for us related to the financial stability of the association. That ticket revenue we get from a state championship series from Round 1 to our championships is critical for us. That’s why, as an association, it’s one that we have highlighted. But volleyball, golf, tennis and all the things we would start the school year with, we’re looking at all of them, and we want all students to have an opportunity to participate.

Do you see football as the most problematic sport to get back on track?

It is, definitely in the fall, in regard to the passing of a virus and the proximity of players to one another, even in a practice setting. If it’s not under control or we don’t have a vaccine, that’s what gets really concerning about football and the nature of football.

One rumor has the football and baseball seasons being flipped. Where is that on the table of potential plans?

At this point, I’m not saying that, “No, we wouldn’t consider that.” I think we’d have to get the support of the membership on board with that idea. But the idea of flipping seasons is really complicated. Right now, everything remains on the list.

Let’s say that football does return this fall. What will the IHSA do to ensure the safety of players and whatever fans are allowed to attend?

I think maybe some of the professional leagues are talking about the players being temperature-checked or even having a full-being check for the virus before competing. While that seems potentially fathomable for professional leagues, the numbers for us to conduct that on a broad scale for all of our high schools just isn’t possible.

We really haven’t talked about if we would have the potential to have spectators and do that kind of testing, even if it’s a simple temperature check. Early on, I think it would lean on the shoulders of our membership to have that responsibility.

I don’t know if there will be something to connect to your smartphone to somehow pass it across somebody’s forehead. Somebody is going to make a lot of money when they come up with that app.

The future of high school sports may have taken a step no one saw coming, how it is handled will decide the future of it. Time will tell the final impact COVID 19 has placed on the future.