Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series about the status of Ohio high school sports after an exclusive interview with Ohio High School Athletic Association Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass.
The end came suddenly and with little warning.
One of the first casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic were high school’s winter sports seasons, with the wrestling and girls basketball seasons stopped just before the start of the state tournaments and the boys basketball season ending at the regional tournament level.
The end of the Ohio high school sports seasons affected no one more than Ohio High School Athletic Association Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass.
The winter sports tournaments were postponed March 12, the first day of the state girls basketball tournament, and officially canceled March 26.
On April 21, spring sports seasons were also canceled after almost a month-long postponement.
These state tournaments and a few events during World War II (1941-45) are the only sports cancellations in the history of the OHSAA, which was founded in 1907.
“It was personal,” said Snodgrass. “It beat me up. I feel like I had worked so hard to tell our story in everything I did to gain the public trust.”
Snodgrass said since having to cancel the winter tournaments and spring sports seasons he has been the subject of a lot of personal attacks on social media.
The end of the girls basketball season ended the Napoleon Lady Cats’ storied season. The Lady Cats’ impact reached Snodgrass, who mentioned the Napoleon girls team during his press conference the day he announced postponing the winter sports tournaments.
Snodgrass coached at Defiance and Findlay high schools and was the AD at Findlay High School while they were a member of the Great Lakes League with Napoleon.
“I feel like I know many of the names (at Napoleon) better than most places,” said Snodgrass. “It affected me emotionally, them making it down there.
“I would like to tell them their sacrifice, one they did not ask to make, giving up all the things that go with being a senior, will be seen next year,” said Snodgrass. “The biggest payback they will ever get is seeing next year’s class playing basketball from their sacrifice. We don’t play for accolades, we do it for the love of the game.”
Snodgrass said he was looking forward to seeing the crowds the Napoleon fans were expected to bring after they sold out the school’s allotment of tickets for the state tournament in less than two hours.
“I know how important sports are for a community,” he said. “Nothing brings a community together more than high school sports. Leading up to the regional and state tournaments I saw something from a realtor from Napoleon talking about what made it great to live in Napoleon and he focused on the girls basketball team. That tells you how important that was to the Napoleon community.”
The OHSAA executive director was also impressed with the way the Lady Cats handled not getting to play at the state tournament after going 27-0 to get there. He was especially aware of the demeanor of Napoleon girls basketball coach Corey Kreinbrink.
“It would be wrong if I did not say that I want every coach in Ohio, in every sport, to talk to Corey Kreinbrink about the maturity with how he handled (the situation),” said Snodgrass. “As far as head coaches go, we need more Corey Kreinbrinks.”
Snodgrass said he was also moved by something Kreinbrink wrote on social media about getting his name in the state basketball program was a life-long dream and to have that fulfilled was special. After reading it, Snodgrass had the Napoleon page of the girls basketball program framed and sent to Kreinbrink.
“First, and foremost, my respect of Jerry is enormous,” said Kreinbrink. “I know a lot of coaches feel the same way. Not only the way he handles himself, but he’s been a coach and one in northwest Ohio, and an athletics director. He’s gone through all this stuff.
“For him to point this out is very humbling,” continued Kreinbrink. “He knows my dad very well and to come out and say this means a lot to me. It’s a really cool thing.”
Kreinbrink empathizes with Snodgrass during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of people think he is making these decisions and he doesn’t care or it doesn’t matter to him,” said Kreinbrink. “It is the exact opposite of that. He is doing everything that he can to make up for an impossible situation.”