The idea of canceling high school sports in Louisiana had been thrown around recently, but not by LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine and he confirmed that Monday.
In his presentation to the House Education committee, Bonine told the group that the LHSAA never said it would cancel the sports seasons.
Instead, Bonine provided insight into when we might see contact football practices and games. He said we won’t see high school football games until the LHSAA moves into Phase 4 of reopening. Louisiana is currently in Phase 2 until at least July 24 by order of Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Bonine’s statements come a little over a week after Senate Education Committee Chairman Cleo Fields made a request to leaders of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to suspend fall sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
BESE lacks the authority to suspend public high school and other sports for the fall because of the pandemic.
“You expect things like that to come out,” Brusly head football coach Hoff Schooler said of Fields’ suggestion. “We never thought this was a decision one person could make. It’s a tough decision no matter what they choose.”
The LHSAA's Phase 3 allows for 7-on-7 limited inter-school contact drills for football teams without helmet and shoulder pads. Phase 4 allows full contact and collisions using helmet and shoulder pads along with scrimmages against other teams.
Schools are scheduled to move to fall practice rules for all fall sports on Aug. 10.
“I’m still optimistic that we can get it done,” said Port Allen head football coach Don Gibson. “It was disappointing to hear, but it was something we knew.”
Bonine said flipping fall and spring sports isn’t a top option on the table, but Gibson said he believes it’s the best way to ensure athletes are able to compete.
“That’s the best way to go is to switch it,” he said. “It’s not my call. I think for us to get everything done is to switch football to the spring. “Let’s do what’s best to give these kids a chance to have their seasons.”
Port Allen Principal James Jackson said he fielded several calls from students and others following Bonine’s announcements. The concerns were centered around the football season possibly being canceled.
“That wasn’t news to me, but nothing is canceled yet,” Jackson said. “I knew we weren’t going to play football if we weren’t going to be in Phase 4. Hopefully we continue to wear masks, quarantine and make healthy decisions not only for themselves, but for everybody else.”
Jackson said based on the state of things, it’s very possible to believe that high school football won’t start on time.
When asked about spectators and fall sports Monday, Bonine said those decisions would be made with individual school districts.
Jackson said that once Phase 4 is reached, it would likely lead to having fans in the stands because in order to reach that point, things would most likely be safer for all.
“Football is not the same without fans in the stands,” he said. “High school sports rely heavily on the revenue generated from just turning on those lights on Friday night. None of those other two things are more important than being safe. I would love to have fans in the stands, and I think the plan would be in our favor.”