Proof of the ever-changing sports landscape the coronavirus pandemic has brought us came to me in a Friday night email.
A social media post by a parent about a McKinley football player who tested positive for COVID-19 was circulating. Once confirmed, the post prompted the Baton Rouge school to cease its conditioning workouts for 10 days.
McKinley is not the first school to go through this, and it likely won’t be the last as Louisiana’s 2020-21 high school sports seasons teeter on the brink.
The brink of just what that is … I still have no idea.
I will concede this point: We definitely have hit the 2-minute warning. Tough decisions must be made in the days and weeks ahead in Louisiana and other states.
Yes, we love sports so much, and we want them now more than ever. But we still don’t have the answer to one burning question: What do we have to do to have sports safely without a vaccine or effective treatment?
Sorry, folks, there is no handbook or instruction manual for the coaches, the LHSAA or anyone else to follow. The science keeps changing, as do the approaches to control COVID-19.
A few states got ahead of the curve. Tennessee announced last week it would delay seasons for two contact sports, football and soccer. New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham postponed soccer and football three days ago, noting also that all fall high school sports could be put on hold if classes do not start on time at its public high schools.
Two key Louisiana dates are looming. On July 20, Gov. John Bel Edwards is scheduled to announce whether the state will move into Phase 3 of reopening or stay in Phase 2. LHSAA fall practice rules begin Aug. 10.
If Louisiana does not move to Phase 3 soon, then move to Phase 4 in August, allowing for full-contact sports, we surely are looking at altered or staggered fall seasons. Cross country and volleyball could start ahead of football.
When the LHSAA formally canceled all its spring sports, I told a friend it would be a “win” if fall seasons started two weeks late. Realistically, seasons could be at least a month late. I truly hope this prediction is wrong.
Games and championships would be easier for the LHSAA and the rest of us to handle because they have set parameters, rules and time schedules. This virus is invisible. It comes without parameters and past precedents.
We all want answers now, which is why there is such a push for the LHSAA, the Louisiana Department of Education, BESE — somebody to make a decision or announce a plan, as in any plan.
Consider this point: No states around us have decided what to do about their high school sports seasons, either. One nearby state has had intrasquad football scrimmages, because their phased approach is different than ours.
One LHSAA staffer told me their days are filled with work on different scenarios and plans.
“You want a plan, there may be thousands out there,” the staffer said.
What is right for Louisiana remains to be seen. Yes, I want sports, too, and remain hopeful. But there is only one guarantee I can offer: The Advocate will report on whatever that final decision is.