’Disappointed is the best way to say it for all seniors,’ says one Northeast Ohio athletics director.

Three hours after Governor Mike DeWine announced Ohio's school facilities would remain closed for the rest of the academic year, school administrators were notified that spring sports would be canceled.


The Ohio High School Athletic Association notified school superintendents, principals and athletic administrators in an email early Monday evening.


"As we have stated in our previous communications, today’s announcement by Governor DeWine to close schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year also will now result in the cancellation of OHSAA-sponsored spring sports seasons including tournaments," OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass said in the email — which The Independent received a copy of.


The hope of playing high school sports during the spring season always hinged on the ability of the school facilities to open back up to classroom learning. It was essentially no in-person academics, no athletics.


Ohio's school facilities have been closed since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.


"I want to stress the ‘uncertainties,’ but as we now look into the summer and the fall, we will communicate plans/adjustments to our regulations as uncertainties become realities," Snodgrass said. "I want to assure you that we are looking at everything. For example, when the first decision to close schools was made, we looked at eligibility concerns. About three weeks ago we began looking at all models if fall sports’ seasons were affected — still an uncertainty.


"We are looking at everything from ‘physicals’ (and the potential difficulty of getting them) to the possible need to treat/disinfect artificial surfaces. We will pass along guidance and regulation adjustments as uncertainties become better understood. We are drawing on a long-established OHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Group for professional recommendations for many of these concerns and issues. This is a reminder the current no-contact period remains in effect at least through May 3. Any adjustments/extension to this will be communicated in advance of that date."


Athletic directors throughout Northeast Ohio were not taken by surprise by the news Monday.


"I just feel bad for the kids in the sense that sports is much more than just contests," Jackson Athletics Director Dan Michel said soon after the governor spoke. "In education, we talk about the product and the process. The process is all the work that you do on a daily basis, and of course, the product is the game or the test and how you do on it.


"The lessons that are learned happen every single day. So these kids, they're not getting their daily lessons with their teachers. Now, and I think some of these lessons are just as important if not more important, they're not getting their lessons from their coaches."


Stow Athletics Director Cyle Feldman "was holding out hope" for spring sports returning at some point in May.


"I didn't even care if it was May 18," he said. "I think any type of season, even if it was 3-4 weeks, it would have extended some closure, got kids back together. We were planning this morning on some senior banners and different things we're trying to do for seniors, anticipating that potentially we'd be closed for the rest of the year. Disappointed is the best way to say it for all seniors ... but I understand where everybody's at and the seriousness of it."


The OHSAA had made it clear school facilities would need to be opened up for athletics to return. That was reiterated over this past weekend to school administrators.


Copley Athletics Director Andy Jalwan said disappointment is the emotion he feels the most right now for his athletes.


"I can't imagine putting myself in their shoes, especially our seniors," Jalwan said. "Definitely, from our department, our faculty, our staff, we just extend our deepest regrets for what is basically an unfair circumstance.


Monday’s announcement by DeWine was the final domino to fall in terms of making a final decision. More than half of the states have now closed schools for the remainder of the academic year, with 27 — including neighboring Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana — having done so prior to this week.


While many figured this decision was coming. the moment of impact still hits hard.


"The thing that I go to right away is I just start thinking about my team," Massillon baseball coach Spike Ridgley said. "It's spring training time, and like they say for the big leagues, it's the most optimistic time of the year because everybody feels good about what they're seeing in practice and getting out there and watching their guys compete. With no exception, we looked really good and those last few practices we had, we really felt good about where we were at."


Spring sports teams — baseball, softball, boys tennis, track and field, boys volleyball and lacrosse — were in the midst of preseason practices when the OHSAA announced its initial suspension of the season March 13. The day before, the girls basketball and wrestling state tournaments, as well as the boys basketball regional tournament, had been suspended.


The winter sports tournaments were eventually canceled March 26. On Saturday, the OHSAA added the seventh- and eighth-grade state track championships, originally scheduled for May 16, to the list of cancellations.


Now, an entire sports season will be canceled, a first in OHSAA history.


The next big question rests in the summer programs for all sports. June is a key month for most offseason programs, but especially basketball.


"One of my main concerns moving forward lies with non-school programs attempting to fill the void of school sports," Snodgrass said in his email to administrators Monday evening. "While our job representing the member schools is to organize and conduct SCHOOL sponsored events, I realize also that many non-school club/travel/community programs utilize school facilities. Many also use other facilities.


"I am concerned with non-school programs putting our students at risk and filling the void left by the cancellation of spring sports as well as current shutdowns that prohibit out-of-season training/open gyms by school coaches. The State Superintendent of Schools, through a meeting with the Governor, requested a meeting on Thursday to discuss concerns over this. I hope to be able to update you sometime soon after this meeting."


Beacon Journal sports writer Ryan Lewis contributed to this story.