3 high school football state champs in Baton Rouge _lowres

Advocate staff photo by RUSTY COSTANZA -- Catholic High players celebrate with fans after beating Rummel 31-28 to win the Division I state title Friday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

A secret that never really was a secret brought consternation for some frantic high school sports parents and fans Monday. And perhaps a few coaches.

Contrary to popular belief, the sky did not fall when LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine addressed the House Education Committee on Monday.

The 2020 football season was not canceled. No vote was taken on anything. And most importantly, the chart Bonine shared with the House committee, the one that lists a mysterious Phase 4 of reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, is not new.

Yes, the chart that says football schools can’t do full contact/collision or play scrimmages/games against opponents until Phase 4. It was sent to LHSAA football coaches and athletic directors more than a month ago. Some may not have gotten or read the memo.

Full disclosure: For weeks, in my columns and stories, I’ve been calling it “what happens after Phase 3.”

Bonine conceded during a Tuesday radio interview that the LHSAA referred to it that way, too — until Monday.

Also, do not search government websites to find the LHSAA chart. You won’t find it, because it is a hybrid of guidelines put together by the state, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House, the National Federation of High Schools and the LHSAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

There is a story to be told here. And it is not what people want to believe it is.

The LHSAA is not engaging in “cancel culture” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The LHSAA is not planning to deliberately take away your team’s football season. Or any other season, for that matter.

I have spoken to Bonine multiple times since May. Never has Bonine nor anyone on his staff mentioned canceling sports. The executive committee reaffirmed the LHSAA’s commitment to a fall season with a statement last week.

And while there has been talk of flipping spring and fall sports, Bonine has said he does not favor that option and would consider it a last-ditch solution. Coincidentally, all other states across the South feel the same.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association’s executive committee voted Tuesday to push back its fall seasons two weeks. Football teams will lose scrimmages and one regular-season game. Much like the LHSAA, the MHSAA will start its fall practices on Aug. 10. Scrimmages are allowed Aug. 28, with games to follow Sept. 4.

The Terrebonne Parish school system also announced Tuesday it has pushed back the start of school until Sept. 8. Caddo Parish has moved back its starting date to Aug. 24.

Some sportsmen are very good at hitting a moving target. Pinpointing sports seasons during a pandemic as COVID-19 cases rise and fall amounts to a different form of target shooting.

I understand why people are confused about the whole phased approach. The LHSAA is following Louisiana’s phases for opening.

The fact that Louisiana did not move to Phase 3 late last month is key to what happens next. 

We remain in Phase 2. Louisiana (and LHSAA) Phase 3 allows for 7-on-7 and limited contact that football and other sports, such as volleyball, need. If we had moved to Phase 3 as expected last month, sports would be pretty much on target to begin on time.

It would have put LHSAA teams on track to go beyond Phase 3, to Phase 4. That would bring full contact in helmets, shoulder pads and full gear, along with contact scrimmages and games.

But a spike in COVID-19 cases, which continues as we speak, prevented that from happening. How soon we get to Phase 3 and past it is the key now.

I keep saying we must wait a little longer for these seasons to work out. And yes, I’m saying it again.

Don’t give up. The coaches and players are not. Neither should the rest of us.


Email Robin Fambrough at rfambrough@theadvocate.com