ENTERPRISE — There still is an outside shot — or, perhaps more fitting, a Hail Mary — that a tackle football season could happen this spring.
In its meeting Monday, Feb. 8, the Oregon School Activities Association executive board did not entirely rule the contact sport out, with Executive Director Peter Weber on multiple occasions during the meeting citing the possibility of the Oregon Health Authority and the governor’s office revising its stance on contact sports shortly.
“We believe they are finalizing some changes to contact sports in the coming days,” Weber said. “While we are waiting for that to happen, we know we need to be providing options.”
Full-contact sports are currently prohibited by the OHA and governor’s office. That includes football, which started practice Monday and is supposed to start its season the week of March 1.
With this week of practice already designated a non-contact week, the OSAA took an opportunity to put backup options in place in the event the state does not change its position on contact sports. It did so while leaving the door open for 11-, 8- or 6-man full-contact football seasons if state guidance is changed.
The backup plan, should the sport remain prohibited, puts the following options on the table for schools — 7-on-7 football, flag football, a virtual lineman team challenge and a virtual combine.
“The focus is providing ways for coaches and kids to interact in a safe way,” OSAA Assistant Executive Director Brad Garrett said.
Several members of the board, before the vote to accept the motion, were clear on their stance that their primary hope is for full-contact football to be played this season.
“Having this to fall back on is really important, and I appreciate the leg work, (but) I would still advocate every change we get for a football season,” Tillamook Athletic Director and 4A Representative Curt Shelley said.
Weber stressed that the OSAA has been advocating for the state to lift prohibitions that are in place, and will continue to do so.
“It (advocacy) doesn’t stop until we have all kids participating in all activities,” he said.
The state’s other three fall sports — soccer, volleyball and cross-country — will be able to begin practice to a certain degree on Feb. 22.
Cross-country and soccer both are outdoor sports and considered minimal- or low-contact. Cross-country, however, has one glaring stipulation from the OHA hovering over it — that only two teams can compete against each other at one time.
“The limit of two schools per event is killer for cross-country,” said Jeff Clark, principal at Oakland High School and 2A representative. “While I am all in favor of moving on … taking that off would make things a lot better.”
Volleyball will be able to start indoors in the counties not in extreme risk — which currently includes Wallowa County. Outdoor volleyball was approved as an alternative in counties still in extreme risk.
The board also approved a change of season request form for schools, leagues or regions unable to begin their season, which would allow them to appeal to the OSAA and move their participation in a sport to a different timeframe. So, for example, a team not able to play volleyball because of the risk levels in Season 2 could petition to play later in the year, say in May.
This, however, would not apply to football, as a May 1 cutoff for the season has been recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations sports medicine committee so the fall season is not impacted.
Jack Folliard, the Oregon Athletic Officials Association executive director, and Clark both expressed concern about the risk of overlap if a sport was moved.
Folliard’s worry was about referees who could see sports they officiate be overlapped, while Clark talked about the issue it could raise for athletes in small communities.
“It’s going to put some stress on our smaller schools,” Clark said.
Weber noted putting the option in place was more about opening possibilities for schools to choose what is best for them.
“The idea is to give the schools that flexibility that works for them,” he said.