Ohio allowed practices and instrasquad scrimmages to resume for full-contact sports June 22. It suspended school vs. school scrimmages July 29, three days before the start of practices for all fall sports. One week into those practices, football, soccer and field hockey players wait to see if they will be allowed to compete against other schools.
“I’m very optimistic about having a season,” said Eric Spahr, commissioner of the Greater Western Ohio Conference. “I think, all along from the GWOC’s perspective, we’ve been anticipating a season. It’s just getting the parameters and guidelines to make that happen. I think we’re all just anxiously awaiting what the final plan will look like. Absolutely, I’m anticipating us having a season. Is it going to be the typical high school football season? No. But our student-athletes are going to get the opportunity to compete, and we’re excited about that.”
The OHSAA’s plan for a six-game regular season surprised many local coaches.
“Nobody saw this coming,” said Shawnee coach Rick Meeks.
Alter’s Ed Domsitz was still digesting the plan when he was asked for his initial reaction. The challenge for Alter and many schools will be reconfiguring the schedule in a relatively short time. Alter is scheduled to open the season at Lebanon on Aug. 28.
“We’ve got five other teams in (the Greater Catholic League Co-Ed division),” Domsitz said. “Do we kick those five teams up to the beginning and then play that sixth game?”
Then the question becomes, “Who would they play in that sixth game?”
“I think it’s going to be a pretty big headache for athletic directors to try to match up games and then try to find venues for these games,” Domsitz said. “That’s going to be difficult. I think if you come from a large league, that might be a little easier.”
Domsitz agrees Friday’s news moves Ohio closer to getting a season, even if it’s much different than normal.
“I would be a little surprised if (DeWine) says there is going to be no contact sports,” Domsitz said. “We’re so far into it. I see what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to wrap things up before Thanksgiving. I’m not sure where that leaves winter sports. We knew there could be something like this. Maybe it will all work out.”
Meeks’ team plays in the Central Buckeye Conference, which held a vote earlier this month about whether to continue with its non-conference schedules. The vote was 6-6, and they decided to play their original 10-game schedules.
The six-game season means CBC teams, which play in six-team divisions, are in the same situation as GCL teams. They can play their five conference games but need one more game.
“Everyone’s going to have to figure out what six games to play,” Meeks said. “I would assume most would try to play their league games to establish a league champion.”
The OHSAA did help leagues by announcing “all regular-season football contracts are now voidable by either school, especially in the event that conferences redo their league schedules to fit into the first six weeks.”
If there is a season, it will begin the week of Aug. 24. The first Friday night of the season would be Aug. 28. The regular season will end Sept. 28. The playoffs will begin Oct. 9, and state championships would be played no later than Nov. 21. The length of the playoffs will be determined by how many teams are playing in each division.
All schools that decide to play — and there are many throughout Ohio that have decided not to or have delayed the start of practice — will make the playoffs.
Kaufman said the governor’s office came to OHSAA’s Board of Directors, which he is part of, early in the week with the suggestion to finish the season before Thanksgiving. That’s why the decision to shorten the season was made.
“We’ve been battling certain issues with some schools wanting to start right away, while some schools are in a delay and some schools are currently suspended,” Kaufman said. “Coming up with this option, you work backward from a state championship game. By going to the six-game schedule, everybody makes the playoffs. Anybody that delays the start of the season can start anytime they want and come Week 7, they’re going to play in the playoffs."
Despite the shortened season, every team will get a chance to play the normal 10 games if they choose.
“If you win the playoff game, you move on,” Kaufman said. “If you lose, you can play up to three more regular-season games and get all 10 of your games in. By doing this, A, we are able to follow the governor’s recommendation of getting the season in before Thanksgiving. B, anybody on a delay can start late. C, everyone has ability to get all 10 games in if they want. The way I see it, that’s the trifecta of making the most of a horrible pandemic.”