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States Mulling Whether to Allow Fans at HS Sports

Jason Scott

Some state high school associations are reportedly considering how and whether to play games in front of fans this fall, and seeking input from peers around the country.

According to the Lewiston Sun Journal, a group of experts and athletic directors from around the country have gathered for biweekly meetings to discuss issues facing high schools in the midst of the pandemic. Among those joining the call on Monday was Glen Gillespie, the interim executive director of the Ohio Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, and Jeremy Lewis, the athletic director at American Fork High School in Utah who made headlines this week for stopping a football game to enforce mask and social distancing requirements.

Ohio and Utah have some guidelines for how to return to team sports, but their approaches are different. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine last week cleared the way for contact sports to be played this fall, but guidelines dictate that stadium capacity be tapped at 1,500 or 15 percent — whichever figure is lower. 

“You’re probably not going to see a lot of students at games,” Gillespie said, indicating that in most of the state crowds would be limited to players, cheerleaders, band members and parents.

Meanwhile, in Utah, the state association left the decision whether to allow fans up to individual school districts. The district American Fork belongs to allows stadium capacity of 25 percent, with social distancing and mask requirements. School officials were also given the green light to stop an event to enforce those protocols, as Lewis did during the football game.

Related: AD Pauses Football Game, Asks Crowd to Spread Out

Fans in American Fork’s district are required to use online tickets only, and to sign an agreement that they’ll adhere to the guidelines.

“Really, I’m just holding them accountable to the agreements that they signed,” Lewis said, adding that other Utah school districts have blocked fans outright.

Rich Buzzell, athletic director of Marshwood High School in Maine, said that his biggest concern is outside contamination. 

“My main goal is to provide the safest atmosphere, for our kids, our coaches and our personnel,” he said. “And I’m not sure allowing fans will provide our safest atmosphere.”

 

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