Governor OKs Return of High School Football, Other Outdoor Contact Sports

Are you ready for some football? After renewed pressure from parents, coaches and players on Governor Kate Brown — which followed new guidance by the Oregon School Activities Association this week that left the ball for full-contact sports squarely in her court — Brown evidently is.

On Wednesday, the governor announced changes to the state’s outdoor sports guidance, which clears the way for high school football and other full-contact outdoor sports to return after a year-long absence.

Normally played during the fall season, high school teams did not take the gridiron last year due to football being considered a high-risk activity amid the pandemic.

In December, the OSAA updated the schedule for start dates, with football practice scheduled to begin this week.

But while an OSAA meeting Monday cleared the way for some sports, such as soccer and cross country, it did not give answers to families and athletes hoping for football’s return.

Brown said that starting this week, outdoor contact sports will be allowed with health and safety protocols in place based on the county’s risk level.

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Exciting news from the Governor’s Office today! We will be working with the Governor’s Office, Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education to clarify the information and to support schools getting students back on the field. https://t.co/fTMhaPoY6c pic.twitter.com/x50xvxCb2v

“This has been a difficult year for Oregon’s youth athletes and, as our Covid-19 numbers have dropped, I have been committed to working with our health experts to reevaluate our protocols for sports,” said Governor Brown.

“School sports play an important role in fostering students’ mental, emotional, and physical health. We will proceed with caution, to ensure that teams are following health and safety precautions to protect our athletes, their families, and their communities.”

In lower and moderate risk counties, practices and games for outdoor contact sports can resume as early as this week following health and safety guidance yet to be issued by the Oregon Health Authority.

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In high risk and extreme risk counties, schools and other sports organizations can opt into resuming outdoor contact sports as long as additional health protocols are in place. Clackamas County and its Portland metro area neighbors this week were downgraded from extreme to high-risk status.

In such counties, sports organizations must offer on-site responsive testing for symptomatic individuals and close contacts, contact tracing, a waiver identifying health and safety risks and a commitment to isolation and quarantine if exposed to Covid-19, the news release from Brown’s office said.

Schools and sports organizations will also be encouraged to explore partnerships with the university system for student-athlete testing.

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Hey @Canby_Football… https://t.co/74TO7HWzG9 pic.twitter.com/A4JT7Gce71

Schools in extreme and high-risk counties that opt in to outdoor contact sports must also have at least limited in-person learning, Brown said, with the goal of achieving hybrid or full in-person instruction for students this school year.

“It is not lost on me that this decision today will allow high school football to resume when too many high school classrooms across Oregon remain empty,” Brown said. “To all the parents of student-athletes and coaches who have called and emailed me in the last year asking for school sports to resume, I am challenging you now to devote your energy to making sure in-person academics can resume for your kids, too.

“If our school gyms, fields, and weight rooms are to reopen, we owe it to Oregon’s children to make sure our classrooms, libraries, and science labs fully reopen as well.”

Schools that do not opt in will be limited to non-contact sports. Indoor contact sports like basketball and wrestling are still prohibited statewide due to the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Brown also said the OHA will update the exemption for college sports and allow Division 2, Division 3 and NAIA schools to submit plans to resume college athletics.

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