Over the past several months, the 2020 football season has been in question due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With the season drawing near, at the end of August, the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association released a proposal for the return of football on Tuesday.
This proposal includes recommendations for return to play. Many area schools have been practicing since early June, but 7-on-7 scrimmages have not been an option due to mandatory testing for any members of the team and coaching staff outlined by Gov. Mike DeWine’s office.
However, the OHSFCA’s recent proposal doesn’t include mandatory testing.
Instead, it states, “Athletes and staff are required to have a game-day temperature checks administered by
staff and complete a game-day COVID-19 symptom
It adds, “Participants must not show symptoms of COVID-19 in the 72 hours leading to competition.”
“Testing creates a logistic and financial strain on the players, coaches and the school system in general,” Jefferson coach Ed Rankin said. “That’s probably above my paygrade how we’d work all those things out as far as the testing.”
Testing could be one of the largest logistical hurdles that needs cleared for a season.
“I don’t think the high school at our level will be able to do that practically,” Geneva coach Chip Sorber said. “If we had to test every week before we played, I don’t know. Like the nasal test the NBA’s doing and the NFL’s doing … I don’t think the high schools will be able to do that.”
The proposal also relies heavily upon social distancing. Practice groups are limited to nine players, which can be a struggle for smaller coaching staffs, players and parents.
“It’s going to end up being time put on the side of the kid and the parent because now this group’s gonna have to show up early at this time and this group’s going to have to show up [at a different time],” said Sorber, whose staff includes three other coaches. “It’s doable, but when you have [bigger] position groups… that’ll be a little far reaching to expect something like that.”
Another restriction would be that 11-on-11 full contact is limited to nine minutes for the offense and nine minutes for the defense per day during the preseason.
This would be 12 minutes less than the usual Ohio High School Athletic Association guidelines. During the season, that period would decrease to nine minutes and two days per week.
“Most high school coaches have evolved past that years ago because you don’t want your kids getting hurt,” Rankin said. “We have plenty of other drills we can do individually.”
A few other focus points include: spacing out the team box from 10-yard line to 10-yard line, limiting locker room time and playing six-minute intervals with two-minute breaks built in.
“[The extra two minutes] can be very similar to TV timeouts for college and NFL so we would probably just get extra minutes to make sure players are executing our strategies and game plans,” Rankin said.
Teams are strongly encouraged to stay outside during halftime instead of entering the locker room.
The proposal states that locker room usage should be mainly limited to restroom breaks, hazardous weather and pregame medical attention.
“That’s easy,” Rankin said. “Anybody who’s been a coach has probably had to go to a visitor’s stadium where they didn’t have locker room access.”
The 37-page proposal will be looked at by DeWine and the OHSAA. Practices for fall sports remain scheduled for Aug. 1.
“We understand the timeline, but we want to see where we are,” DeWine said during his COVID-19 press conference on Wednesday. “We need to get a little closer before we can make any kind of decision in regard to that.”
One thing is clear— local coaches are ready for a decision.
“I have many contacts throughout the region, as far as coaches and administrators, we’re all on board to doing whatever it takes to get back and play, but we also respect the health departments and the medical experts and the epidemiologists,” Rankin said. “We’re going to go with whatever recommendation that’s passed down to us.”