At some point soon, the governing bodies and decision-makers of high school sports associations across the country are going to have to come up with concrete plans for how to handle football and all other fall sports this year, whether that means canceling seasons, reconfiguring schedules or moving them back to the spring.
As we creep closer to the official start dates of these sports, the clock is continuing to tick down on when those decisions will be made, and more sand dropped out of the hourglass on Thursday morning when Michael Hinojosa, the Dallas Independent School District Superintendent, told MSNBC “I seriously doubt” that there will be high school football in Texas this fall.
“If Texas doesn’t have high school football in the fall, the whole country probably won’t,” Ohio State running back commit TreVeyon Henderson told Eleven Warriors on Friday.
Henderson is planning to graduate from Virginia’s Hopewell High School in December and enroll early in January at Ohio State. According to Bucknuts’ Bill Kurelic, Henderson is one of 11 Buckeye commits in the 2021 class who are planning to enroll early, along with Jack Sawyer, Kyle McCord, Jayden Ballard, Reid Carrico, Evan Pryor, Marvin Harrison Jr., Denzel Burke, Jantzen Dunn, Sam Hart and Jesse Mirco. (Ben Christman, Mike Hall and Tunmise Adeleye are also considering early enrollment.)
All 11 of those players, plus the three who could still potentially graduate in December, could very soon be faced with a reality they had hoped would not come just a month or two ago. If high school football is moved to the spring, they will have to make the tough decision on whether or not to go forward with their plan to enroll early or forgo that plan in order to stick with their high school team for one more season.
Most of those commits, according to one player Eleven Warriors spoke with for this story, have said they are still planning to enroll early even if the football season is moved to the spring.
That contingent includes Henderson, who has already made up his mind that he will be leaving Hopewell for Columbus in January.
“I’ll skip spring football and still enroll early,” Henderson said. “It's a tough decision because I still wanna play football, but at the end of the day, it’s still gonna benefit me. I can start off fresh at OSU and start training. I just want to go ahead and get involved in the program and get a feeling about what Ohio State is all about; get around some of the players and just get comfortable there.
“It’ll be really tough because my goal was four (state championships), and I was supposed to get my third one this year. So it’ll be tough, but I know my boys will handle that and get that third ring.”
Im an early enrolle and VA might not have football until February https://t.co/Kz6wGqXlNQ— TreVeyon Henderson (@TreVeyonH4) June 27, 2020
Shootttt Im still early enrolling https://t.co/krEZtQbY1Z— TreVeyon Henderson (@TreVeyonH4) June 27, 2020
On June 25, the Virginia High School League announced that it is delaying a decision on fall sports for at least another month, and they will not be meeting again until sometime in July or August to discuss plans. There is no set date for their next meeting.
That is the basis for one of the chief worries for Henderson – that the VHSL is going to wait too long to make a decision on the plan for football in the fall and that by the time they make a decision it will be too late to come up with a contingency plan of his own.
“It’s a lot of concern, for real, because I feel like they’re gonna wait too late to talk about it, and then I won’t be able to do anything,” Henderson said. “So it’s very concerning. I did look forward to getting another state championship and to win it at Hopewell.”
Henderson says he has been contacted by Florida’s IMG Academy, Baltimore’s St. Frances Academy and some other private schools, and he has put some thought into possibly transferring to a different school.
“If they don’t let us play, I’m not sure if I’ll end up transferring or just end up sitting out a year,” Henderson said. “But if not, I’ll probably end up transferring. I’ve just gotta see what’s up with other schools to see if they allow early enrolling.”
Henderson also says that he has put thought into going down the same route as fellow Virginia five-star Tony Grimes, who on Friday announced that he is reclassifying to 2020 and enrolling at North Carolina on Aug. 1.
“I’m still up in the air about it. Both kind of have their advantages.”– ohio state commit Reid Carrico
Sawyer, like Henderson, is unwavering in his decision that he will skip a potential spring season to hit Columbus in January. Pickerington North's five-star defensive end, who has aspirations of achieving the same level of monstrous success at Ohio State as the Bosa brothers and Chase Young, has taken the necessary time to think over his decision and has his plans laid out for himself.
“Me and my dad have actually been talking about that quite a bit because that’s definitely a possibility,” Sawyer told Eleven Warriors. “And I think we’ve come to the conclusion that if Ohio high schools were to move the season to the spring, that I would still go ahead and early enroll and get in there in December or January and, I guess, forgo my senior season is basically what I’d be doing. Even with how bad that would suck and I’d hate not being able to get my senior year, especially if they’re still gonna be able to play it, I think that’s the best thing for me to do for my career and my future at Ohio State is to get in there as early as possible.”
With the high goals he will be bringing with him to Columbus, one of which is getting on the field and making an impact in big games as a freshman, Sawyer believes it's of critical importance to officially get into the program as early as possible.
“I honestly think it’s instrumental to my career,” Sawyer said. “I think that extra time I get with Coach (Mickey Marotti) and Coach (Larry) Johnson is invaluable. You can’t put a value price on it. I think just getting in there and getting on that nutrition plan is something I can’t miss out on. Going in with my expectations of trying to play as a freshman and whatnot. It’s just an opportunity that I can’t miss out on with the career I plan on having. I think it’s a necessity.”
But while Henderson and Sawyer have already made up their minds that they will forgo their senior seasons if necessary and enroll early at Ohio State, it’s not the same for every commit in the class. Every player’s situation is different, and skipping a spring senior season is not a universal decision.
For Carrico, it remains an incredibly hard question to answer.
“It’s hard to tell,” Carrico said. “As of right now, down here we’re just getting ready for it like it’s gonna be in the fall, but it’s kind of a witch hunt right now if we’re gonna have daggone football in the fall or not. I’ve just got my fingers crossed right now, to be honest. I just can’t say a whole lot about it because I just don’t really know a whole lot about it. There’s no telling what the (Ohio High School Athletic Association) is gonna line up for us or what the future holds, so we’re just kind of rolling with the flow, I reckon.”
Rock da MASK so I can Rock da HELMET...... #IWantASeason— JB (@J_Ball21) July 10, 2020
Please wear a mask so I can wear my helmet...— Why So Serious... (@MichaelHallJr_) July 10, 2020
Carrico wasn’t speaking for all the fellow commits in his class or for any other 2021 recruits facing similar situations, but his mindset remains indicative of the difficult decisions they will have to face sooner than later – that there are pros and cons in the decision to stay or go.
“I’m still kind of up in the air about it,” Carrico said. “I’m a big team guy. Some people think of it as cliché to call it a brotherhood, but if the season got pushed back to the spring for high school ball and I split in January and left my high school teammates out to dry, I’d feel like a bum.
“I’m still up in the air about it. Both kind of have their advantages. On the high school thing, you only get four chances to win a ring and bring one home. But then again, I could go up to Columbus and get started with Coach Mick early and Coach (Al) Washington and all them guys, develop quicker. But you only get so many games with your buddies from when you were little.”
Sawyer also said it would be tough to leave his teammates behind without one last ride.
“Oh, man. That’s the thing. With me growing up around the teams, I couldn’t wait to play for Pick North, always going to the games when I was younger and being on the sidelines with my buddies who had older brothers playing on the team,” Sawyer said. “We were always around. It’s gonna be painful if we do that, if I have to miss it, but I’ll definitely go early. No doubt about it.”
Today with @LtGovHusted and @GovMikeDeWine the #OHSAA joins the #IWantASeason awareness campaign to encourage student-athletes to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Please post photos using #IWantASeason pic.twitter.com/C3py15vPS3— OHSAASports (@OHSAASports) July 7, 2020
While Henderson has already won two state championships at the high school level, Carrico and his Ironton Tigers came within one painful touchdown of winning the Ohio Division IV state title in 2019 in a 14-7 loss. All offseason leading into summer workouts, getting back to Canton’s Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium for another crack at a ring has been a major motivational tool.
So that’s another factor weighing into Carrico’s decision, a decision Ohio State’s coaches have not discussed with either him or any of the other players planning to enroll early and a decision that’s a bit reminiscent of when Carrico was choosing his future college during the recruiting process.
“This might be a harder decision, to be honest with you,” Carrico said. “Because now there’s more involved. It’s not just me picking where I’m gonna go for school. Now, it’s bringing my current teammates into it. They’re factors now. It used to be it’s just your decision, but now I’ve got more roles in my decision. It’s rough. I really don’t know what I’m gonna do yet.”
The OHSAA’s next board of directors meeting is set for July 16, and a plan for fall sports will certainly be a main topic discussed at length.
According to ThisWeek News, as of Wednesday, OHSAA interim executive director Bob Goldring – who replaced former executive director Jerry Snodgrass on Monday after Snodgrass was voted out by the board of directors – said the OHSAA has no interest in flipping fall and spring sports.
Of course, as we have seen in the world of college football, things are continuing to flip on a dime and stances are changed weekly and daily. Gene Smith, for example, said in May that Ohio State was exploring the possibility of playing games with as many as 50,000 fans in attendance. On Thursday, Smith expressed concern over whether Ohio State would be able to play any games at all after the Big Ten announced it is moving forward with a plan to play only in-conference games.
Perhaps some sort of plan will be put in place to play a shortened high school football season. Maybe we will see that flip to spring football, after all.
Either way, the Buckeyes’ 2021 commits remain in wait-and-see mode.