Ten days before the first scheduled game of the 2020 season, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine gave the state’s 700+ schools the go ahead to proceed with fall football games. His theme is that it’s all about the student-athletes and the mental strain that not playing the games would have on them. However, given the continuing presence of the Covid-19 virus, the release comes with several constraints.
In essence, the directive issued a few weeks ago by the Ohio Department of Health still stands. But the requirement to (1) test participants for the virus within 72 hours of the game and (2) have the results in hand at game-time have been waived for high schools. That plus the declining number of daily virus cases in Ohio open the door for this decision. So here are several of the restrictions in place and the impacts of each:
- The season will consist of six regular season games followed by seven weeks of playoffs. All teams are eligible to participate in the playoffs – The ODH wants the season wrapped up prior to Thanksgiving, fearing a rebound of the virus during the winter months. The revised season plan does this. However, the Governor hopes that the it won’t need to be cut short, which would result in the remaining games either canceled or perhaps played in the spring. DeWine also gave schools the option to defer to spring football. However, no playoffs would exist for those that elect spring.
- Teams are limited to 60 dressed players – Massillon currently has 88 varsity players. Therefore 28, presumably assigned to the junior varsity, will not suit up and will lose the enjoyment that comes with being on the sidelines with their brothers on Friday night. For them the mental impact is increased.
- Players must socially distance between the 10 yard lines while on the sidelines – This will be difficult to enforce, given that the players want to be close to the action and it will be up to the very busy coaches to police this. It’s also a strange rule given that it never occurs throughout the many practices leading up to the games.
- Teams are permitted one scrimmage during the week prior to the first game – This is awfully late notice. It is not known at this time if Massillon will take advantage.
- Fan attendance is limited only to parents and others that have close influence on the players, cheerleaders and bandsmen – This one strikes communities at the heart, with nearly a million fans affected at a time when some positive aspect of life is surely needed. No consideration was given to those communities that have been minimally exposed to the virus. The only alternative then is video broadcasting. In Massillon, the high school airs games live over the Internet via pay-per-view to those that live at least 30 miles away. The distance requirement is expected to be waived, so everyone with a computer will be able to at least view the games. But there is still the matter of season tickets for approximately 3,500 fans. This is a serious issue involving thousands of dollars and will need to be worked out quickly by the ticket office. Collectively across Ohio, schools could lose out on over $50 million dollars in ticket proceeds, which help to fund football in the first place. Finally, there is the OHSAA, which relies heavily on ticket sales, particularly during the last two weeks of the playoffs, to fund nearly their entire program. The impact of these lost revenues will be huge.
- Marching bands are only permitted to perform at home games – For most schools, that’s a lot of work for two or three games. Fortunately, Massillon was able to schedule all six games at home. The Tigers also hope to make a deep run in the playoffs, which would give the band additional opportunities to perform in front of those few hundred in attendance.
On another note, Head Coach Nate Moore has finalized the 6-game schedule. All games are at home and on Friday night, except for the one against Canton McKinley, which will start at its traditional time of 2:00 pm on Saturday.
- Lakewood St. Edward
- Columbus Bishop Sycamore
- Warren Harding
- Cleveland Benedictine
- Cleveland St. Ignatius
- Canton McKinley