In late March Jordon Coffin, a former high school coach who fundraises for high school groups, launched an online petition on Change.org in hopes of convincing the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) to not cancel, but postpone spring sports until summer. Coffin accumulated over eighteen thousand signatures. This petition was heavily motivated by the Oregon community rallying to give senior athletes a chance to enjoy their last moments during the spring athletic season.
In alignment with Governor Kate Brown’s decision to cancel in-person classes for the rest of the school year, the OSAA cancelled the remainder of the spring season for the rest of the school year in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. At this current time, OSAA is weighing all possible options regarding fall 2020 athletics.
Just as they have done since April 28, OSAA plans to adhere to Gov. Brown’s advice and restrictions throughout summer and fall 2020. They plan to cancel or modify all sporting events with large crowds through September. OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber spoke with Andrew Nemec of OregonLive on the progress OSAA is making towards the fall 2020 athletic season. “Right now, we have a lot more questions than answers, but we’re trying to figure out what it could look like,” said Weber.
The focus of OSAA’s discussions has now shifted from the spring to fall season with a confirmed cancellation of high school athletics. The OSAA has held multiple virtual meetings throughout May in hopes of balancing a full fall athletic roster across Oregon schools in accordance with Gov. Brown’s restrictions. Weber told Nemec, “The overarching piece for all of this is the concept ‘Are kids going to be back in school?’ We’re school-based, education-based activities,” Weber said. “We need our kids to be back in school in some way, shape or form. That’s a big piece of all of this.” Many schools and universities have made plans to continue fall academics online. This would have a direct impact on fall 2020 and spring 2021 sports if in-person classes are not in session.
Earlier this month Weber assembled a panel of Oregon’s athletic directors and coaches in hopes of mapping out a plan for the next season. “We tried to have all levels represented, big schools, small schools, rural, urban,” Weber said. “It’s never perfect, but we feel like we have a decent representation. And we’re excited to get those conversations going. We have some ideas of where they could go, but a lot of it is going to come out of the conversation.”
According to Nemec, an option the OSAA is considering is the idea of breaking up the fall, winter, and spring sports and instead making the fall schedule some combination of sports that are easily adaptable to social distancing, while pushing back larger contact sports. “This however is one of many ideas the OSAA is floating,” said Nemec.
Last week the National Federation of State High School Associations released a set of guidelines to be followed when high school athletics return. The OSAA then sent a memo to superintendents, principals, athletic directors and coaches with advice on how to plan and continue with the coming athletic seasons. JD Humburg from OregonLive breaks down the key points of these two documents while addressing the some of the community’s frequently asked questions.
One of their questions was how soon can schools reopen their athletic facilities for workouts? “The OSAA rules prohibiting the use of school facilities and in-person interaction between students and coaches are in effect for the remainder of the association year, which runs through May 25,” said Humburg. The Oregon Department of Education has also mandated that Oregon’s three largest counties are not yet approved to reopen and these schools within the Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties must wait before anyone can return to their campuses.
Another question Humburg answered was whether or not there would be a high school sports season this fall. Humburg writes, “that remains to be seen. The governor has recommended all sporting events with large crowds be canceled or modified through September, and it’s not given that students will be back in classrooms at the start of the school year. Additionally, the NFHS and OSAA both acknowledge a ‘near certainty’ of further outbreaks, making it impossible to say what the sports landscape will look like three or four months from now.”
With all of this uncertainty surrounding what fall sports will look like, OSAA remains committed to exhausting every option available to them for providing fall athletic opportunities given they are in accordance with state-wide health guidelines and restrictions.