COLUMBUS — To the 30 or so media members who were in St. John Arena at the time, OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass’s unscheduled press conference, just 16 minutes before Thursday’s Division II state semifinal basketball game was set to start, confirmed the rumors that had been bouncing around the nearly empty OSU facility throughout the morning.
There would be no tournaments.
In one of the toughest moments of his career as director of the state’s high school sports sanctioning body, Snodgrass spoke for nearly 16 minutes about why the OHSAA had made its decision to “postpone indefinitely” the winter sports season.
“This is certainly one of the toughest days, not only in my career, but our staff’s career, knowing that every single day that our staff works for these opportunities for our kids. We stress opportunities of a lifetime, and our decision today has been to postpone indefinitely our regional boys basketball tournament, our state girls basketball tournament, our state ice hockey tournament, and our state wrestling tournament. This decision, though it may appear at the last minute, is based on so many developing situations that occurred really in the last eight hours. And as much as we want this opportunity for our kids, and our schools and our communities, we have to look at the safety aspect that these mass gatherings create,” Snodgrass said.
Division II girls basketball teams representing Carroll and Beloit West Branch had been warming up to play their scheduled 1 p.m. state semifinal game, only to leave the court with just 15:59 left until their game would begin. Carroll players appeared relaxed and upbeat during their shoot around, and probably had no idea that when they ran off the court that they wouldn’t be running back onto it to start a basketball game a few minutes later.
Snodgrass said the OHSAA had taken advice from the national Center for Disease Control, as well as the Ohio Department of Health.
“Everything points out that the spread of this is increased tremendously at mass gatherings. And those mass gatherings, we have many of those across the state right now,” Snodgrass said. “We have 630 wrestlers alone, just the participants, at our state wrestling tournament. So we really have to make the wise decision, as tough as it is, to postpone indefinitely.
So much of this going forward, and why I use the words ‘postpone indefinitely,’ is what may come about with our schools, with their attendance, with there not being any school, whether school is cancelled or not. I have been in contact with the state superintendent of schools as well as the governor prior to this, and all of that has led to this decision now.”
Moments after the press conference, Snodgrass spoke with Carroll Athletic Director Scott Molfenter about a matter pertaining to the game’s cancellation. Molfenter was saddened for the student athletes, but said he understood the reasoning behind the OHSAA’s call.
“”The timing may have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for our kids, but I think we want to be on the right side of things here, and so we’re in full agreement with what Mr. Snodgrass is saying,” Molfenter said.
Carroll’s students had got out of school early on Thursday, so that they could watch the team’s game on TV. Governor Mike DeWine had asked that only essential team personnel and four immediate family members for each athlete be in attendance for the games. St. John Arena felt virtually empty as a result.
Molfenter said plans are in the works for a school celebration to take place to honor the 2019-2020 regional champions and state qualifiers.
“”I’m sure we’ll do something. This is all pretty new for us, now, but I will sit down with (School Principal) Mr. Sableski and decide what we want to do for them. It’s all pretty knew right now,” he said.
Molfenter said coach Cecelia Grosselin and Matt Sableski addressed the team about the game’s indefinite postponement. He said he saw the team walking out and added that “they were all pretty emotional at that point.”
The magnitude of the coronavirus’s reach was still hitting everyone when the game had been cancelled.
“”It’s big. I mean, it’s the pros, it’s college, it’s high school … I’ve been saying a million times that we wanna be on the right side of history with this, and we want to keep everybody safe and healthy. Hopefully the girls and our fans can look back on this season as a success,” he added.
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.