COLUMBUS — New Ohio High School Athletic Association Executive Director Doug Ute knows his organization is facing a financial crisis due to COVID-19.
But despite cuts, the OHSAA isn’t going away any time soon. That was one of several things discussed during a teleconference with media members Wednesday, a day after he was named the successor to Jerry Snodgrass as the top OHSAA official.
“It’s severe,” Ute said of the budget problems that arose after the cancellation of last year’s boys and girls state basketball tournaments and the state wrestling tournament, along with greatly reduced anticipated crowds for this year’s football playoffs. “(But) We’re always going to have the going to have the Ohio High School Athletic Association and the organization’s going to provide the student athletes an opportunity to compete.”
Exactly where those tournaments will take place is another issue.
With current restrictions put in place by the state and local departments of health, crowds would not be nearly big enough to cover the cost of renting large arenas. Ute specifically mentioned Wright State University’s Nutter Center, which holds the girls state volleyball tournament.
“We have to ask the question, ‘Does it make sense to rent out the Nutter Center and only put 300 family and loved ones in there?’ ” he said.
Restrictions in place allow for a maximum of 300 people or 15 percent of capacity. Attendance figures for the 2019 state tournament were not available, but the tournament is historically well-attended with several thousand normally in attendance at any one time.
Also, some facilities located at high schools or colleges which have traditionally hosted tournament games, might be unavailable because of coronavirus concerns.
“We are going to continue to work with the governor’s office and the department of health and Lt. Gov. (Jon) Husted … and just go from there,” Ute said. “We are making backup plans.”
Ute also said that he was “confident” and “optimistic” that fall sports will be able to finish the season and he also thinks winter sports could begin on time … as of now.
“Things can change weekly or daily,” he said.
Ute has spent the last 11 years as superintendent of Newark City Schools, and held the same post at Marion Elgin Local Schools for nine years prior. He also coached and taught at Noble Local Schools in eastern Ohio and Buckeye Central High School, which is near his hometown of Bellville in north central Ohio.
Last spring, Ute announced that he was stepping down from his position at Newark to become deputy director of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA), which is the state’s superintendent’s association. The OHSAA job was too good to pass up.
“I felt with my background I could bring a lot to the organization in terms of leadership,” Ute said. “The is the one opportunity that I felt was a good fit for Doug Ute and Doug Ute was a good fit for the organization.”
He takes over for Interim Executive Director Bob Goldring, who is the OHSAA’s senior director of operations.