OK, everybody worried about high school sports, I have three words of advice: TAKE A BREATH.
And if you happen to be out in public, I hope you do it while wearing a mask.
This sounds like one of my attempts at gallows humor. I am serious about this. And I seriously want to see high school sports played in the fall.
I am not afraid to go outside because of the novel coronavirus. I go out to do interviews and other things, but I am cautious since I am in an at-risk age group with underlying concerns, including a mild form of asthma.
And I choose to remain cautiously optimistic about high school sports, including football, returning. The biggest question is what high school sports might look like. We simply don't know.
I spoke with LHSCA director Eric Held and LFCA president Dwain Jenkins of Lutcher about that on Friday. Held later texted me, saying “We plan on playing football. How it looks remains to be seen.”
The LHSAA’s executive committee met Wednesday. I reported before the meeting that there were no plans to make final decisions on anything. The meeting was about discussing options, especially since Louisiana remains in Phase 2 of its COVID-19 reopening because of an increase in confirmed cases.
Rumors ran wild. Including one about the committee voting to shut down fall sports. It did not happen, but I’m not sure it is fair to say nothing happened at the meeting.
Yes, everyone can have an opinion about what might happen next. One of my colleagues, Kevin Foote, voiced his opinion about an idea some coaches have kicked around: Flipping the spring and fall sports seasons so that football could be played in the spring. And all of a sudden, people thought the LHSAA was doing it.
LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine understands the logic. He is a baseball guy and a former professional pitcher. But Bonine’s view, and the executive committee’s view, mirrors that of other high school athletic associations in the SEC football fanatic South — flipping seasons is a nonstarter.
So where is the LHSAA going to go with all of this — amid a number of COVID cases among student/athletes and coaches since workouts began June 8? That remains to be seen, not a popular answer. But it is the right one, for now.
This is the LHSAA standing at the plate with an 0-2 count if you want a metaphor. The chance of starting the fall seasons on time is shrinking even as the Louisiana Department of Education released its plans to start public-school classes on time last week.
If Louisiana does not enter Phase 3, which allows for contact sports in some level, by late July, there will surely be delays. Contrary to another rumor, football coaches were not told to cancel Week 1 last week. But it could happen. Jamborees and scrimmages would be lost, too.
The best thing to do now is take a breath. That is my opinion. Filter out distractions, rumors and news about what college and professional sports are doing. None of that applies here.
I saw a social media thread about eliminating the Allstate Sugar Bowl Prep Classic this year because Bonine told one media outlet that a reduced football schedule could be based on playing the Prep Classic as scheduled. This is not the time for that.
And if you think that is a nuclear option, try this one. One recommendation in Pennsylvania would have all sports played during a 90-day window in 2021.
Again, take a breath. The LHSAA and fall sports coaches have until July 20 to develop a wide range of options. There will be a lot of them. We must wait. Whether we like it or not.
Point of clarity
It is time for the LHSAA to make a pivot back to the future and resume releasing forms that detail sanctions levied against schools. It can happen in a highly redacted form that discloses the fine, forfeits, etc. No names included.
Much was made of 18 schools being “reported” for working out ahead of the June 8 date. Some were reported for multiple sports violations.
Investigations and evidence led to less than five schools being sanctioned and only one of those schools mounted a Wednesday appeal.
Transparency here could build trust and also cut down on rumors.