Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine: Decision on contact sports ‘coming out shortly’

Order restricting contact sports remains in place, called 'placeholder'

Although a public health order relating to contact sports in Ohio was extended over the weekend, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday no final decisions have been made for the fall season.

“It’s basically a placeholder,” DeWine said in a phone interview with this news organization. “We’re watching what’s going on with the virus and everything else prior to making a decision about where we go from here.”

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The Ohio Department of Health initially issued an order July 7 allowing inter-team competitions in contact sports such as football, basketball and soccer on a limited basis and under heavy restriction.

That was primarily intended to allow an event called The Basketball Tournament to be staged in downtown Columbus, where participants who were otherwise isolated from the public were subject to strict testing practices that local high school sports officials have told this news organization would be cost-prohibitive for them.

The new order was amended to remove cross country from the list of what the state considers contact sports, leaving football, soccer, basketball, rugby, field hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, hockey, futsal and martial arts under restriction.

Along with requiring all players and team staff members to be tested no more than 72 hours prior to a competition, the order also bans spectators at contact sporting events — unlike non-contact sports such as baseball where fans have been allowed for much of the summer as long as they adhere to social distancing guidelines and take other precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Since the order as it stands applies to all levels of sports, it would preclude college football teams such as Ohio State, Cincinnati and Miami and pro sports teams including the Bengals and Browns from hosting fans in even a limited capacity, but DeWine indicated no such decision has been made yet.

“I can just tell from my emails and text, a lot of people thought this was a brand new,” he said. “They thought it was brand new, and they thought it was final, and it’s neither. So that’s all. It’s neither final, nor is it brand new. It just continues until we get to the point where we’re able to make a decision about contact sports for example.”

The status of fall sports in Ohio has been in question in recent weeks as the number of coronavirus cases have gone up in the state and coaches, administrators, players and parents await a final word on what will be allowed or possible from local, regional and state perspectives.

Some local conferences have announced plans to play only against each other, and some districts have suspended sports.

“People can continue to do what they’ve been doing as far as getting ready for the seasons, but I know this is on the internet and other places just being reported as a big change,” DeWine said. “There was no change, and we’ll be coming out shortly with a decision about where we go in regards to sports in Ohio. Of course, you know schools are making their own decision, but I’m talking about overall guidance.”