MANSFIELD — Athletic directors around the region are wondering what’s next after the sudden and surprising departure of Jerry Snodgrass as the executive director of the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Snodgrass was removed from his position by the OHSAA’s Board of Directors late Monday evening. The board didn’t immediately offer a reason for the move.
With practice for fall sports scheduled to begin Aug. 1 and the OHSAA still trying to find its footing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the news came as a shock to the area’s athletic officials.
“I don’t even think stunned is the right word. I’m angry,” Madison athletic director Doug Rickert said. “I don’t get angry at other people’s decisions because I don’t know the circumstances, but I’m angry at this.
“There has never been a bigger advocate for high school athletics and high school athletes than Jerry Snodgrass.”
There was widespread speculation that a rift had developed over a possible shift of the sports calendar, with fall sports moved to the spring and spring sports to the fall. OHSAA Board of Directors President Dan Leffingwell put that rumor to rest Tuesday.
“There is absolutely zero truth that there was a break-up, so to speak, because somebody wanted to move fall sports to spring and spring (sports) to the fall,” Leffingwell said in an interview with Cleveland radio station 92.3 The Fan. “To date, we’ve had no conversation about that.”
Whatever the reason, the timing couldn’t have been worse. The high school golf season is scheduled to begin Aug. 5 with the start of the remainder of fall sports staggered throughout the month. The high school football season kicks off the week of Aug. 24.
“It’s not just the abruptness of the announcement, but the timing of it,” Mount Vernon AD Justin Sanford said. “With everything going on and what we were expecting from the OHSAA in the coming days and weeks in terms of helping us get back to some sort of normalcy, the timing is not ideal.
“In any situation when you’re going through something challenging like this, you appreciate consistent leadership. When the person who is essentially our leader is dismissed, it leaves a lot of questions.”
Ontario athletic director and baseball coach Jeff Fisher agreed.
“It just raises more questions to the direction of this school year in terms of athletics,” Fisher said. “There’s got to be communication at all levels. It feels a lot like a bad rain storm and, as a baseball coach, you’re waiting to find out if you’re going to play.”
The 64-year-old Snodgrass helped navigate the OHSAA through an unprecedented health crisis. While that journey wasn’t over, there appeared to be light at the end of the tunnel as Gov. Mike DeWine had allowed for high school athletes to resume practice.
“Jerry has been the guy leading us through this pandemic and through all these changes,” Ashland AD Jason Goings said. “I thought we were clear on the direction that we were leaning toward. Now do we need to be prepared for a totally new direction?”
Longtime OHSAA staffer Bob Goldring was announced as the interim executive director. He’ll have big shoes to fill, Clear Fork athletic director and softball coach Jeff Gottfried said.
“From what I saw on a daily basis from Jerry, he exceeded all of my needs as an executive director. I can’t speak for everyone else, but he was very transparent will all of us,” Gottfried said. “If there was an entire rope your were supposed to hang on to, Jerry would hang on to it until it was down to the bare thread. It’s just the kind of guy he is.”