Scenes like this from 2019, when Fairbanks baseball coach Josh Rine congratulates Mason Cushman on a home run, have been non-existent this spring due to the coronavirus. Athletic directors have no sports to direct at this time. (Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
Have you ever wondered what an athletic director does when there are no athletics to direct?
According to Fairbanks High School AD Larry Morris, there’s still plenty of work on the table.
There are no actual sports contests for Morris to oversee, as athletics have been shut down this spring due to the coronavirus.
He is still, however, keeping busy.
“You’re still managing sports even when you’re not open for sports,” said Morris.
Schools across the state were shut down in the middle of March by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association at first postponed and then canceled the entire spring sports season.
At the time of the shutdown, Morris was wrapping up administrative duties for winter sports and was turning his attention to the spring.
“Everything was pretty much set for our spring sports,” he said. “Games were scheduled for baseball and softball and we had our track and field meets set.”
Spring sports were still in the postponed phase when Morris and his fellow Ohio Heritage Conference athletic directors began brainstorming about how to devise some sort of schedule.
“We wanted to have plans for spring sports in case we would have gone back to school in early May,” he said.
Those plans fell through when DeWine ordered schools to remain shuttered and online classes to continue for the remainder of the academic year.
The OHSAA soon followed suit and canceled spring sports.
“I can’t say I was surprised when the governor closed the schools for the rest of the year,” said Morris. “He’s being very cautious in wanting to keep people safe.”
OHC officials had baseball and softball schedules down to between 10 to 12 games during a two-week regular season time frame.
The Panther track and field squads had meets set, including the Marysville Night Relays that had been scheduled for a Friday evening in late April.
“We had planned on competing twice on Marysville’s new track this year,” said Morris. “We were going to provide the timing system for their night relays.”
With spring sports canceled, Morris has had to deal with other issues.
“There are spring sports equipment and uniforms that need to be returned and we have to work on eligibility issues for the fall sports season,” he said.
Morris also said there are questions surrounding varsity letters for spring athletes and compensation for coaches.
“Our school policy is we letter every senior who competes in a sport,” said Morris. “We are still deciding what to do as far as underclassmen.
“Can you letter the kids you know would have lettered if we had played the sport?” he said. “Can you letter them if the sport wasn’t played?
“We’re still looking at that and no decisions have been yet made about coaches’ salaries.”
The school grounds have been closed to student-athletes and coaches since the middle of March.
They will not reopen until there is a declaration by the governor.
Will buildings be open in time for off-season summer work in sports such as football and basketball?
Morris said no one knows for sure.
There is also the matter of the school’s new volleyball coach, Ryanne Ufferman.
“Ryanne hadn’t yet been introduced to her team because of the shutdown,” said Morris. “We don’t know when that’s going to happen or when the team will be able to get into the gym for summer workouts.
“We don’t know when athletes will be able to resume weight-lifting and we’re not sure when our basketball squads will be able to do their summer work.”
For that matter, no one knows whether the football team will be able to have any seven-on-seven passing scrimmages.
Coaches also need to renew sports medicine certificates, such as lessons in CPR, and physical exams need to be arranged with Memorial Hospital for 2020-21 athletes.
Fall sports teams are permitted to begin practice sessions on Saturday, Aug. 1.
The first day of classes at Fairbanks is slated for Monday, Aug. 17.
Whether those dates hold fast is far from uncertain.
“All of our fall sports will be impacted if Aug. 1 for the first day of practice suddenly becomes Sept. 1 or later,” said Morris. “If that would happen to be the case, we would be challenged to compress all of our fall sports schedules for 2020.”
For right now, however, Morris said he’s planning as if there will be a full fall sports seasons.
“The schedules are ready to go,” he said. “You can’t wait around until the last minute.”
So while there are no baseball or softball games or track and field meets to oversee, Morris is working through a steady flow of business.
“It’s just like Cal Adams (retired Marysville High School athletic director) once told me,” he said. “There’s always something to do for an AD.”
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