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LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine speaks during during the House Education Committee meeting about starting high school football games.

With little fanfare and only brief discussion, the LHSAA executive committee unanimously approved a plan to move forward with football contact drills and its season, regardless of what novel coronavirus reopening phase Louisiana is in.

And on top of that, the executive committee approved moving up the start of the football season Oct. 1-3, instead of the previously-listed Oct. 8-10. Teams will play their Week 3 opponent Oct. 1-3. LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine said teams can begin contact practices Thursday and can scrimmage at the end of the month.

Under the updated football plan, schools will still play eight regular-season games and will have traditional playoff brackets.

“I get a little emotional about this,” LHSAA executive director Bonine said in a brief interview during a meeting break. “This is what our coaches and players have been working toward.”

The quick vote to approve what was hashed out with legislators Friday was the biggest news during the morning portion of the fall executive committee meeting at the LHSAA office Wednesday. The vote clears the way for the LHSAA to begin its COVID-19 altered football season Oct. 1-3.

In other news, committee member Ryan Gallagher of Brother Martin reported that the LHSAA's select schools approved the invitation to return to the LHSAA's championship events for 2020-21 because the pandemic. The executive committee approved the return of select schools to its events for 2020-21, noting that a vote to reunite the select/nonselect finals beyond 2020-21 would have to be voted on in January.

On Friday, an opinion issued by Attorney General Jeff Landry said the LHSAA would not face added liability by starting full contact football practices and playing games in Phase 2. However, LHSAA president David Federico noted that the LHSAA does not have the power to overrule a local government edict. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has said the city’s schools cannot participate in full contact while city remains in Phase 2.

Bonine pointed out attendance at LHSAA indoor and outdoor events will continue to evolve based on changing COVID-19 state guidelines on gathering in groups. Bonine said announced plans to allow 25 percent attendance at LSU home football games should not impact the LHSAA’s plan to get to 50 percent occupancy for its events.

“At Tiger Stadium, 25 percent is 25,000 fans,” Bonine said. “At our school sites the numbers are different. We need students in our schools and fans at our games.”

Dr. Greg Stewart of Tulane, the chairman of the LHSAA's Sports Medicine Committee, also gave a report. Stewart told the group that moving forward with contact is fine as Louisiana remains in Phase 2.

Though Stewart's normal recommendation is for 21 days to acclimate to football contact/heat, Stewart said he would OK dropping the acclimation days from to 10 to 14 days because LHSAA teams have been working out in shoulder pads and helmets for a month.

The executive committee went into executive session for appeals and discussion of multiple topics, including the this season's playoff structure. This story will be updated.

Other items

Because of the damage done by Hurricane Laura to 179 member schools, the executive committee approved moving its reclassification process to February. The process for 2021-22 and 2022-23 would normally be done based on fall enrollment figures. 

Committee members argued the numbers for schools damaged by the storm will not be accurate this fall, saying figures tallied in the spring will be more accurate.

The Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony postponed in April is rescheduled for the LHSAA office Oct. 6. The event will be livestreamed because a large crowd will not be allowed.

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