Ohio lieutenant governor backs prep sports

DeWine weighs it

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Among the voices of athletes, parents and coaches clamoring for high school sports to proceed during the coronavirus pandemic is a booster with one of the state’s highest-profile platforms: Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.

Husted, a former University of Dayton football player, is working with Ohio’s high school sports oversight organization to develop a plan. He has been outspoken on his personal Twitter account in recent days that sports should go forward.

Those tweets come as GOP Gov. Mike DeWine was expected to announce his order governing sports Tuesday — a plan that appears to leave a lot of decision-making to local officials.

“What’s the greater risk to people under age 25, canceling in-person learning & extracurriculars (sports) to protect them from COVID or leaving it to chance how they’ll fill this time?” Husted tweeted on Aug. 10 to his more than 25,500 followers. “You can’t take these things away from young people & expect good (health, academic, life) results.”

The following day, Husted again tweeted from his personal account that he and his wife felt confident sending their children back to school for in-person classes and sports.

On Aug. 13, Husted tweeted out an op-ed he wrote in 2015 opposing pay-to-play fees for extracurricular activities, and added: “Whether it’s fees or another barrier preventing participation, we need to overcome for our kids.”

DeWine hinted last week that fall sports, including football and soccer, could go forward with limits and based on local decisions by parents, schools and health officials.

DeWine, like Husted, is a sports enthusiast. He’s part-owner of a minor-league baseball team, the Asheville (NC) Tourists, speaks often of his children’s and grandchildren’s participation in cross country, and lamented the delay of Major League Baseball. He’s talked at his twice-weekly briefings about the discipline that sports provide young people.

There’s no disagreement between the two leaders, said DeWine press secretary Dan Tierney.

“The governor and the lieutenant governor are definitely on the same page as to the benefits of youth sports,” Tierney said, while noting the complexity of the coming order.

The number of fans will be restricted at sporting events, likely to athletes’ parents and close relatives, the governor suggested last week.

“We want the athletes to compete, we want the young people to have their seasons, but we want to do it as safely as possible,” the governor said. “It’s about the kids.”

Messages were left with Husted’s office Tuesday.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association suggested last week that sports will go on.

Organization leaders “continue in conversations with the Governor’s Office, are working tirelessly in a cohesive effort and believe our plans to move forward with the start of our seasons are in concert,” according to an OHSAA memo sent Thursday to superintendents, principals and athletic administrators.

DeWine’s announcement comes as practice is underway at some schools and suspended at others out of concerns over the coronavirus.

Ohio’s largest district, Columbus, suspended school sports and extracurricular activities as of Friday, citing the advice of local health officials and concerns about the continued spread of the coronavirus in the area. Superintendent Talisa Dixon said the district would re-evaluate that if guidance from health officials changes.

Dozens of states nationwide have delayed fall sports, and at least 15 won’t play high school football this autumn, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

DeWine weighs it