Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Wednesday he will issue an order banning mass gatherings as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
That means the First Four basketball games in Dayton and NCAA Tournament first- and second round game in Cleveland will be played in front of few, if any, spectators next week.
By the time the governor spoke, local athletics officials were already scrambling to meet requirements set by the Ohio High School Athletic Association that will greatly limit who can attend regional and state tournaments for basketball, ice hockey and wrestling.
“Basically what has happened is the state has given us a set number,” Carroll athletics director Scott Molfenter said in regards to tickets available for the Patriots Division II girls basketball state semifinal game against Beloit West Branch scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at St. John Arena in Columbus.
“What they take into consideration is administration, players, support staff and managers, and then they just come up with a number based on those numbers and trying to get parents or a few family members in, so we have to work within those parameters,” Molfenter said.
Carroll had planned to cancel school Thursday and bus students to the game, but instead it will be a normal school day with a break to watch the game at 1 p.m. via live stream in the gymnasium.
For the girls basketball state tournament this week and the boys tournament next week, each athlete may designate four family members to be permitted to buy single-session tickets while coaches and administrators are allowed to buy tickets for two family members apiece.
The same rules are in effect for the ice hockey tournament and regional boys basketball tournament that began Wednesday.
In the case of the regional basketball tournament, which is held at multiple sites across the state, bus drivers are also allowed one free ticket for themselves and a guest. Tickets will be available at entry, cash only, at the site of each game, and Molfenter said a voucher from the school will be required for anyone to purchase a ticket.
Among the boys regional sites is UD Arena, where Trotwood-Madison and Thurgood Marshall are set to play Thursday night after Alter tangles with Columbus Beechcroft.
“First and foremost we know that there’s a seriousness to this issue,” Trotwood coach Rocky Rockhold said. “There are a lot of folks who keep asking, ‘Why? Why? Why?’ and the reality of it is it’s all about safety. And we know that and we’re sad for our kids because of course kids want to play in front of their peers. They want students sections, and they want their people there, right?”
“So that’s a tough situation to be in if you’re a young man,” said Rockhold, whose Rams won the state championship in Columbus last season. “One of the greatest things that we were able to be a part of over the last couple of years from a basketball perspective is playing at the Schottenstein Center and it’s crowded, it’s full, it’s loud. So it’s definitely a solemn perspective but one that we have to take serious.”
The Centerville and Lakota East boys basketball teams played in the D-I regionals on Wednesday night at Cintas Center in Cincinnati. Stivers played Anna in a Division III boys basketball regional semifinal at UD Arena. Those were the first games involving area teams under OHSAA’s requirements for limited fans.
The OHSAA announced late Tuesday night all previously purchased tickets are void as policies are updated to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are following the Governor’s instructions and are doing this for the safety of Ohioans,” OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass said in a release. “This is a very difficult time and we need our schools and fans to know that we have been told we must do this.
“We must pull together to do the best we can to conduct these tournaments so that the student-athletes can still finish their seasons, which have gotten them to the pinnacle of their sport.”
Additionally, all events surrounding the state tournament games are cancelled, including special presentations, halftime entertainment, various meetings, merchandise sales and other display booths.
Media outlets are still permitted to cover the games, and news outlets may provide live video of the boys regional basketball tournament if they pay tape-delay rights fee.
The state basketball tournaments are shown annually by Spectrum News 1 and can be streamed as well while the OHSAA produces a radio broadcast of the state tournament games that is available to stations across the state. Local stations are also permitted to produce their own broadcasts for radio.
“Unfortunately for the students and the general public, they’re going to have to either watch it on livestream or follow along some other way,” Molfenter said. “It’s gonna be a little strange having a big building with with those numbers in it, but we completely understand what the (OHSAA) has to do and the parameters they have to work within.
“First and foremost you feel you feel bad for the for the girls,” he added. “It’s a dream come true for them. It’s a great opportunity and unfortunately their friends can’t be in there with them, but you know hopefully they can look past that and give it their best shot.”
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