COLUMBUS (WCMH) — OHSAA Commissioner Jerry Snodgrass says he’s an optimist by nature, and if the next few weeks go well, he’s confident high school football in Ohio can happen this fall.
“I do believe we will go forward in a normal routine with football with some safeguards, with attendance,” Snodgrass said. “That’s the eternal optimist in me. But I have to stress we’ll be prepared if we can’t.”
That likelihood of sports returning improved Thursday after Governor Dewine’s announcement that high school athletes can resume in-person training and conditioning for all sports beginning Tuesday, May 26th.
Snodgrass says the OHSAA does not make decisions related to individual schools and their facility access, so it will be up to local school districts to determine how they allow athletes to return while following health and sanitation measures.
It’s a first step toward resuming sports schedules in the fall, but there are many more hurdles ahead for the OHSAA and its member schools.
Sanitation and virus transmission remain one of Snodgrass’ biggest concerns about contact sports like football.
“The number one thing that has to be controlled are respiratory droplets. I have no shortage of suggestions on a daily basis,” Snodgrass said. “Many people have reached out saying they’ve got a great idea.”
He says many parties have suggested wearing a full plastic shield to cover openings in football helmets, but Snodgrass there’s no testing yet to prove that would be an effective deterrent for stopping the spread of droplets. Snodgrass addressed many questions related to football during an appearance Thursday on the Greater Columbus Sports Commission’s Virtual Sports Report.
Also of major concern is whether fans would be permitted inside stadiums, at either full or limited capacity. Snodgrass says 82 percent of the OHSAA’s revenue comes from ticket sales, and football stands as the biggest revenue driver for the organization. The OHSAA makes no money on regular season games because individual schools keep the revenue.
“Without that revenue, if there are no fans in the stands . . . it’s a huge revenue loss and a huge concern for schools themselves,” Snodgrass said.
On Wednesday, the OHSAA announced it will vastly expand its football playoff system beginning in 2021, with nearly half the football-playing schools in Ohio getting the chance to play in the postseason. It will add a week to postseason and allow the OHSAA to create more income from ticket sales. The organization lost several million dollars with the cancellations of winter and spring sports tournaments. Snodgrass says this decision was not based on revenue, but rather opportunity for high school athletes.
“Some sports say we shouldn’t let everybody in and the other tournaments say to be able to let everybody in,” he said. “I’m sure I speak for the board on this, but our decision is rooted in giving more opportunities to kids at the number schools.”