These days, there seems to be more questions than answers when it comes to the future of the sports world.
That’s just the issue facing Roseburg High School Athletic Director Russ Bolin and football coach Dave Heuberger as the 2020 prep football season draws nearer.
“I sometimes think the best answer right now is to say you don’t have the answer,” Heuberger said. “You really don’t have the power to answer a question. Someone else is dictating that.”
That’s a different feeling for Heuberger, who admits as the head coach of the Class 6A Indians, he’s used to having more control.
The start of summer camps and the first official practices of the fall are less than three months away and there’s been plenty of speculating about how those practices might look or if they’ll even happen at all. In Heuberger’s opinion, the only option is to wait and see.
“I could mock up 17 different calendars from June 1 to Sept. 6, but we just don’t know what that looks like,” Roseburg’s fifth-year coach said. “Normally we’d have a player and parent meeting right about now, but you can’t have them come in if you can’t answer the questions they’re going to have.”
Heuberger and Bolin got some direction from the Oregon School Activities Association after an Executive Board meeting on Wednesday.
The OSAA confirmed that its association year will run through May 25 and schools will control what they allow to take place at their facilities over the summer starting May 26, in accordance with directives from Gov. Kate Brown, the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education.
Bolin said that the Roseburg High School facilities will remain closed through June 30, per Gov. Brown’s directive. Once gyms, fields and weight rooms reopen, the OSAA has established a thorough set of guidelines for holding practices and workouts and sanitizing facilities and equipment.
The OSAA’s memo did note that the Executive Board is committed to administering sports and activities this fall, provided it can be done safely in accordance with guidance from the state educational and medical partners.
A number of ideas for holding a prep football season next school year have been brought up since it became clear that public health restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19 would impact the season. The most prominent thoughts are that the season will start with no fans or have a delayed start.
“I think we may be looking at a delayed start for athletics,” Bolin said. He pointed out that this is uncharted territory for everyone and there’s no playbook or manual on how to deal with the situation.
“It’s unprecedented. This is the first time we’ve had to deal with something like this,” Bolin added. “Everyone’s just going to have to be flexible and adjust to whatever the guidelines are.”
No fans at the games will have an impact on the athletics budget at RHS, according to Bolin, but Heuberger said the effects will be felt beyond ticket revenue.
“The band, the cheerleaders, that atmosphere, the Friday night lights that you hear everyone talk about. It’s not just the football out on the field, it’s everything that goes into that that makes it a pretty special deal,” Heuberger said.
Ultimately, Heuberger just wants to make sure that his players, staff and community are safe when they come to a Roseburg football game. If it means no fans in the stands for some or all of the games, so be it.
“If that’s what they say we got to do, then that’s what we’ll do,” he said. “Anything is better than nothing.”
Another school of thought that has sprung up is moving a full-contact sport like football to the spring season and rescheduling sports like baseball and softball in the fall. The idea is that some spring sports allow for better social distancing and that society will have a better grip on dealing with the coronavirus by next spring, making it safer to play football.
Bolin says he doesn’t foresee that happening and the OSAA has made similar comments, but nothing is off the table.
No matter how things proceed during these tough times, Bolin and Heuberger are on the same page with their message.
“We’ll make it work,” Bolin said. “We’ll figure it out.”