The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association board of directors by a 7-6 vote Friday rejected the association’s plan with COVID-19 guidelines to restart high school activities beginning June 1. The outcome turns control back to local schools, who can proceed with normal summer activities.
So, high school sports will resume June 1 but with any restrictions depending on the individual school districts on top of current state guidelines, which have permitted the resumption of sports.
The regular blue book OSSAA guidelines and policies regarding health issues will still apply.
The discussion about the proposal, which leaked to the public earlier this week in a three-phase beginning with restrictive measures, centered around making the phases guidelines and not policy with local control and accelerating a more open second phase.
If the plan had been approved as recommended by Rick Pool of Kiowa, and seconded by Mike Simpson of Guthrie, the three phase plan would have gone into place June 1 with a plan to revisit and possibly amend or change the plan in the OSSAA’s regular meeting June 9.
Voting no to the proposal were Jerry Needham of Oktaha, Craig McVay of El Reno, Jason Sternberger of Kingfisher, Rusty Puffinbarger of Leedey, Bryan McNutt of Antlers, Rex Trent of Binger-Olney and Don Schneberger of Boone-Apache.
Voting yes were Pool, Simpson, Darren Melton of Lincoln Christian, Duane Merideth of Durant, Sean McDaniel of Oklahoma City Schools and Jerry Olanson of Glenpool.
The OSSAA staff worked with state agencies, physicians and the CDC to develop the plan. Phase 1, from June 1-28, allowed face-to-face contact for coaches and players,with coaches wearing face masks, strength and conditioning with temperature checks, social distancing and specifics on cleaning of equipment and hygiene, including handwashing every 30 minutes, no scrimmaging or infield/outfield drills in baseball.
Phase 2 from June 29 to July 31 allowed non-contact football practice with use of helmets only, no camps, clinics or leagues, and provided for unrestricted practice beginning July 15 for band, cross country, fall baseball, fastpitch softball and volleyball. Phase 3, starting Aug. 1, allowed practice to continue for those sports and the halting of all other out of season activities.
The board also acknowledged that some non-school programs, such as AAU and select baseball, were moving on with full-scale summer participation plans, although some of those organizations, such as all age levels of Little League Baseball and Little League Softball, had canceled summer tournaments.
Needham explained his position afterward.
“There’s too much diversity between districts in terms of staff, equipment and resources to come up with something that is equitable,” Needham said. “I think what we did gives lets each district decide how it can best approach it.
“It’s still fluid. Look at how things looked 30 days ago to how they look now.”
Needham said he would look at some form of parental consent form for his own district.
“I’m just out of this meeting so at this point, it’s just a thought process,” he said.
Chuck London, Fort Gibson’s athletic director, said officials there are to meet Tuesday to come up with a plan going forward, given the vote Friday.
“I would imagine we will take a conservative approach,” said London, who is also girls basketball coach. He said team camps, which his program has early in June, would not be part of that approach.
Muskogee athletic director Jason Parker was “super surprised” by the OSSAA’s decision.
“My thinking was we were looking for more direction, but I’m not one to pass responsibility and we had already been talking with our coaches and had what I felt like was a good plan in place, not only for the protection against the virus but also knowing we’re faced with a period of inactivity where some of these kids may have not done anything much in terms of conditioning,” Parker said.
“We’ll meet Wednesday and decide what adjustments we’ll make.”
Parker said he was optimistic some forms of workouts involving multiple schools could happen now.
“When I say that I’m looking into more of a small co-op between two to three schools where you can have 7-on-7 in football or have a basketball league, but as far as the larger 10 to 20 team camps like they have at TU, I don’t think those would be part of any consideration,” he said.
Chad Kirkhart, Hilldale athletic director, said in a text a plan is being worked on and a meeting with the coaches would happen "soon."
"Obviously you want to do what is smart with everybody's safety in mind," he said. "How that is viewed is different when you go from family to family. Some may have family more at risk. Others may not have that at all. They are going to view things differently with regard to the virus."