SALEM — In one way or another, high school sports are set to return to competition starting March 1.
The executive board of the Oregon School Activities Association approved the start of soccer, cross-country and (partly) volleyball during a Monday, Feb. 8, Zoom meeting, while football players still are waiting for further guidelines from the Oregon Health Authority to determine if they can play games this winter and spring.
“That was a priority for the board,” Peter Weber, executive director of the OSAA, told The Bulletin. “Let those who can go, go. And those who can’t, provide alternative options.”
Those who can: Soccer and cross-country are allowed to start practicing Feb. 22, while questions remain about what the postseason will entail. Those questions will likely have more clarity following a Feb. 17 OSAA executive board meeting.
Those who cannot: Volleyball and football are waiting for more state guidelines to fully return.
Due to the state’s indoor restrictions, the start of the volleyball season could start on time, or some teams could elect to move their seasons to later in the year when their respective counties could move below the extreme-risk level.
As of now, with new county risk levels set to be released this week, roughly 50 schools have the option of starting on time due to being in a lower-, moderate- or high-risk county. Those in extreme-risk counties may have to play later in the spring. The board approved “change-of-season request forms” for volleyball.
Football teams began official noncontact practices Monday, but it is uncertain if tackle football will be allowed in the next couple of weeks.
Contact sports — football, basketball and wrestling — have been prohibited, thus making it impossible to play under the current guidelines.
During the Feb. 8 meeting, the OSAA made it clear that the OHA would be releasing new, more lenient guidelines that could give contact sports a chance at returning.
“They can’t prohibit (the contact sports) any more (than they already are),” Weber said.
Football cannot be moved to a different season like volleyball and played past May 1 because that is too close to the start of the 2021 fall season. And given the uncertainty of the upcoming OHA guidelines, there is the possibility that parts of the state play non-contact 7-on-7 football while others play tackle, Weber said.
The OSAA has been providing information to the OHA showing how other states who did not play football in the fall — such as Illinois, New York and New Mexico — are approaching their plan to restart football safely. Still, the decision is left in the hands of the OHA and the governor’s office.
“I think this is better than not having any football at all,” said Curt Shelley, the 4A representative on the executive board and superintendent of the Tillamook School District.