McNary defensive back Noah Lelack makes a tackle in a game from last season. At this point, it’s unknown if there will be high school football being played in September (File).
After Gov. Kate Brown announced on April 8 that in-person classes would be cancelled for the remainder of the school year due to the coronavirus, the OSAA elected to officially cancel the spring sports season.
Now it’s looking like the fall sports season could be in jeopardy as well.
On Thursday, May 7, Brown stated in a press conference that all large gatherings would not be allowed until at least October, meaning that major sporting events, like college football, would likely have to play games without fans.
However, because there wasn’t a number specified on what is considered a large gathering, OSAA executive director Peter Weber feels like the organization is still waiting for guidance on what their next steps should be for the fall season.
“There weren’t a lot of specifics in the announcement. We’re still trying to find clarification on what this means going forward,” Weber said. “There are a lot more questions than answers right now.”
Despite the question marks, Weber acknowledged that anything is on the table right now.
“We are proceeding like there will be modifications to the fall sports season,” Weber said.
Earlier in the spring, Weber formed multiple contingency groups made up of athletic directors and coaches around the state to help make decisions on where to go from here, as well as to come up with suggestions that would make a fall sports season more feasible.
“We’re hoping to have regular contact with the contingency groups to come up with ideas and suggestions for next season. We want to be as prepared as we can be. We don’t want to just make a last-minute shift on an issue,” Weber said. “We’re willing to look at anything if it makes sense.”
One idea that is being considered is moving golf and tennis, which are normally spring sports, into the fall season.
During Brown’s press conference, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state health epidemiologist, said that state officials are taking a close look as to what sports could be played and still considered safe if their isn’t effective treatment for the coronavirus in the fall.
“Non-contact sports, things like golf or tennis, where people can maintain a distance are probably some of the things we’re going to see coming back first,” Sidelinger said. “For some of these other sports, basketball, football, and other things where there is more close contact, obviously there is more risk.”
Weber said that cross country is another sport that could come back in the fall, but he also stated that “this might look different for individual fall sports,” which could possibly be pushed back a month, or even into a different season.
If a sport like football is allowed to be played this fall, the amount of spectators allowed in the stands will be dictated by the Oregon Health Authority.
“The spectator aspect will be out of our hands,” Weber said.
If fall sports are allowed to go on as scheduled, but without spectators, Weber said that the OSAA will likely use their partnership with NFHS Network (National Federation of State High School Associations) to stream a larger amount of games for fans and family members.
But before any of those options come to fruition, the OSAA wants in-person class to return in the fall if any kind of sports are going to take place.
“We’re school-based, education-based activities. We need our kids to be back in school in some way, shape or form. That’s a big piece to all of this,” Weber said.