The LHSAA reportedly will not allow high school football games to take place in Louisiana until the state reaches phase 4 of its K-12 school reopening plan.
While the governing body for high school athletics maintains intentions are to proceed with each of its sports seasons without cancellation, during a presentation to the state’s House Education Committee LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine revealed that the organization’s plan has been to not allow games for fall or winter sports until the state enters the fourth phase.
He added that there have been talks to flip seasons between fall and spring sports, but that it is not the LHSAA’s first option. He also noted a delay to the start of football season is a real possibility.
Football teams will be permitted to practice with limitations once the state’s K-12 reopening plan reaches phase 3, however intrasquad scrimmages nor those against other teams will be allowed until phase 4. Currently, teams are allowed to operate individual workouts and non-contact conditioning drills. The biggest shift from phase 2 to 3 protocols will be the number of participants allowed: it’s 25 per group at a time currently, but the number will expand to 50 per group once phase 3 is reached. During phase 3, 7 on 7 offense vs. defense practice will be allowed, but it will still be non-contact.
Bonine said the LHSAA will “follow religiously” Gov. John Bel Edwards’ instructions in regards to reopening during the pandemic.
He added that provisions on the number of spectators allowed during fall sports will be determined in conjunction with each individual school district.
The news caused some uproar on social media Monday, though no new votes or changes have taken place to what the LHSAA’s plan has been, reportedly, from its inception earlier this summer. But the benchmark of phase 4 seemed to raise anxiety for many. The LHSAA has a set of four phases that are distinct from the state and federal governments’ phase benchmarks, which Bonine said was crafted from a combination of CDC, White House and National Federation of High School guidelines.
However, those roadmaps to reopening each have just three phases, leaving the triggerpoint for the fourth phase somewhat unclear for the LHSAA – though it’s clear the state still has work to do to get there after phase 2 was extended earlier this month.
St. Charles Parish Public Schools Athletic Director Kade Rogers confirmed nothing has changed from the guidance the school system has received from the LHSAA since the initial plan was created, and added the process of returning to athletics in full is anything but simple.
“Yes, we need to get back to sports and we need to get back to real life, but you have to maintain safety for the kids and for the staff,” Rogers said. “When you talk about the fact that recommendations are you don’t even blow a whistle right now, it puts it in a bit of perspective.”
Beyond case numbers and benchmarks to be met statewide, there are numerous contingencies that must be settled on before a return to the field.
“It brings questions on who can attend football games … players, coaches, referrees, administration?” Rogers asked rhethorically. “Is the band going to be loud? Will they be spread out? The cheerleaders? Will they all be six feet apart, and the same for the fans? Will only home fans attend and what capacity will you have to abide by in your stadium, at that? It’s layers and layers of an onion.”
And even if those answers are settled on, the questions could always change.
“It could change an hour, a day later … it’s very, very tough,” Rogers said. “I think people are frustrated, past frustrated really, because they want answers. ‘Are we gonna play?’ Nobody wants to see what happened to the 2020 seniors happen again. But there are guidelines we have to operate within, and whatever your personal feelings are on the subject, you have to operate in those parameters. So you’re between a rock and a boulder.”
Hahnville head football coach Daniel Luquet said the Tigers try to shut out the outside noise and stay committed to doing their part to make this season a reality.
“This is bigger than football,” Luquet said. “We can’t control what we can’t control. We show up to work every day, wear our masks and do our part to do what we need to do to be able to play, whenever or for however long that may be.”