OSSAA outlines options for fall athletic seasons

Kevin Farr
The Bryan County News
Silo High School head baseball coach Billy Jack Bowen talks to players during a practice session last week. The Rebels are still on course to open the fall baseball season Aug. 10, according to the OSSAA's decision July 23 to move forward with sports as scheduled.

Throughout an online press conference July 23, Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association representatives reiterated that the current plan is to start all fall sports on time in all classifications.

Even with skepticism that each season will go off without a hitch or delay, the association is continuing to move forward with cautiousness and optimism according to Executive Secretary David Jackson.

“Our plan is to move forward as scheduled with those activities, knowing there may be a delay or interruptions,” Jackson told members of the media. “We are going to make an effort to make those sports happen in some form. Know, however, that it’s not going to look like what we've been used to, though. We are planning to have activities in the safest manner possibly can, but we do have contingency plans in place.

“We are going forward as planned, but information is changing almost on a daily basis. We are in a very different time for activities. It's not going be ideal, but we are going to do the best we can to provide activities.”

Jackson said the association is paying close attention to what neighboring states are doing.

New Mexico recently postponed fall sports activities until spring 2021, while Texas pushed back a month the start of athletics in its two largest classifications.

The OSSAA is also in consultation about what state colleges and universities are doing for the start of athletics seasons.

Sports such as cross country, fast-pitch softball and fall baseball are well into the preseason portion of their practice schedules with games set to begin on Aug. 10. Football practices statewide are also right around the corner.

“We are motivated to have activities in some form,” Jackson said. “We don't have a drop-dead date on when a decision has to be made final, so we are going forward as planned with information changing on regular basis.

“We are leaving decisions on regular-season activities up to the particular schools on the best way to be safe. We have been in contact with many health professionals and are formulating some guidelines, but are leaving it up to schools to do as they see fit.”

Individual school districts will manage situations if a player tests positive for the COVID-19 virus, and will have all local control on fan attendance, cheerleader participation and similar concerns during the regular season.

Jackson stressed that the OSSAA board of directors approved a policy in its last meeting that any games canceled due to the COVID situation would not count as a forfeit. It has asked the districts involved to find a date that game could be rescheduled, if possible.

The OSSAA is also waiting to establish protocol for post-season play, which it will oversee, but would like to allow as many fans to attend as possible while remaining safe.

There is also still a last-resort possibility that fall sports could be postponed to the spring in order to get those in, according to Jackson.

“Everything is on the table as far as options,” he said. “If we have to move activities to the spring, you would probably see condensed seasons - possibly eight-to-10-week seasons for each sport, which could be quite a bit of overlap from one sport to another.

“That could extend spring sports seasons into June and July, which wouldn’t be ideal, but would ensure those athletes aren’t deprived of another season like they were in the spring.”

Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association Executive Director David Jackson is photographed inside his office in Oklahoma City in 2016. During a press conference last week, Jackson said the association plans to move forward with scheduled fall sports activities. [Bryan Terry / The Oklahoman]