As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across the state, with another 8,000-plus announced on Friday, the number of high school sporting events continues to do the exact opposite … at least in the near term.
First, on Thursday, the Columbus City League and Central Catholic League announced they’d postpone all games and scrimmages, across all sports, until Dec. 17.
Friday, it was the Ohio Capital Conference’s turn as the largest conference in the state voted by a 19-13 count to do the same. OCC teams, like those at the four Olentangy schools, Big Walnut and Delaware Hayes, can still play games, but they can’t be against other OCC teams, per sources close to the decision. The announcement impacts winter sports programs, like boys and girls basketball, swimming, bowling, gymnastics and hockey.
Meanwhile, the Ohio High School Athletic Association reaffirmed its commitment to starting winter sports on time, saying it’s ultimately up to the member schools to make the decision to play or not. Girls basketball and hockey got underway in some parts of the state Friday night, boys basketball is slated to get going next week and wrestling the week after that.
“Though we are seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases in Ohio, the majority of our member schools want the opportunity to move forward with winter sports as planned,” OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute said. “As always, the decision to play sports is a local school decision and there will certainly be schools that pause sports for periods of time in the months to come, but if the majority of our schools want to move forward, then we want to provide that opportunity.
“As we have said previously, our member schools provide our student-athletes with the safest possible environment to participate. If we were to delay, students would find opportunities to compete in sports through non-school programs that may not be focused on safety and are not education-based.”
Still, with the three area conferences pausing play until at least next month, finding teams to play — teams healthy enough to play — could be a bit of a challenge.
The Delaware Hayes girls basketball team, for example, was supposed to open its season Friday against rival Buckeye Valley. Due to cases of COVID-19 within the Barons’ program, though, the game didn’t happen. The Pacers were slated to play another Delaware County foe, Olentangy, in their second game early next week, but won’t due to the OCC’s decision to postpone things.
In fact, each of Hayes’ first seven games are effectively wiped out unless it reschedules a team outside the OCC between now and mid-December.
The Olentangy girls, meanwhile, already have an opponent set to replace the Pacers as Licking Heights will travel to Lewis Center to open the season Tuesday. Beyond that, though, the Braves are in the same boat as the Pacers … and a fair amount of other teams in the state.
The OCC is set to reevaluate the situation on Dec. 11, when member schools will discuss the state of the pandemic and a potential plan for returning to play.