HUNTINGTON — West Virginia and Kentucky will delay, while Ohio plans to start on time.
The respective high school athletic associations of the three states announced plans for the opening of fall seasons Friday, subject to change. The COVID-19 pandemic that forced the cancellations of spring sports is altering schedules for the fall.
In West Virginia, the start date for fall sports practices has been delayed from Aug. 3 to Aug. 17, the Secondary School Activities Commission announced.
Executive Director Bernie Dolan made the announcement at Gov. Jim Justice’s virtual press conference. The proclamation came two days after Justice announced school will begin no earlier than Sept. 8 for all 55 West Virginia counties.
While all sports will begin to practice Aug. 17, the start dates for games will be staggered. Golf is free to begin Aug. 24 because, as Dolan said, “it lends itself to social distancing.”
Cross country, cheerleading, soccer and volleyball may begin competing Sept. 2. The first football games may be played Thursday, Sept. 3.
Teams throughout the state began scrambling to reschedule games or find new opponents to replace contests canceled during the previously scheduled opening week.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association plans to proceed with its normal fall schedule. OHSAA interim Executive Director Bob Goldring said, “the OHSAA office is proceeding as if fall sports will occur, meaning practices will begin on Aug. 1 and we will conduct our usual series of tournaments in 10 fall sports. As you all have seen during this pandemic, those plans can be modified or cancelled quickly. In working with the governor’s office, we are currently in the process of preparing a guidance document on the restart of interscholastic athletics.”
The start of the season, however, is far from set in stone. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said whether teams play will be determined by what happens with COVID-19 in the next month.
“What we’re aiming to do here is to have fall where we have kids back in school, have fall and do fall sports, have Friday night football,” DeWine said. “These are all things we want to see and do. What we do in the next 30 days or so is frankly going to determine how that all works out.”
In Kentucky, where practices for fall sports begin as much as two weeks earlier than those normally do in Ohio or West Virginia, all sports except golf were pushed to an Aug. 3 start date. Golf may begin Wednesday.
Kentucky High School Athletic Association Executive Director Julian Tackett said adherence to CDC guideline is key to fall sports being played.
“If our state wants high school sports, you’re going to have to do the CDC recommendations on masking, on distancing, on hand washing. That’s it,” Tackett said. “You’re making a choice. Regardless of your motivation, whether it’s political or otherwise, you’re openly saying, “I don’t want us to get back to normal as fast as we could’ when you defy it.”