Is there light at the end of the tunnel for HS football?
The ongoing battle to breath life into a high school football season that may be on its last legs has taken a couple of twists and turns over the past couple of weeks.
First off, for those of you that did not notice, Governor John Bel Edwards moved line of scrimmage once again when he announced that the state would remain in Phase II of its COVID-19 recovery plan.
That means that football programs around Louisiana will lose another two weeks of full on preparation. With the tentative regular season start date of October 8 looming on the horizon, it is safe to say that coaches and players across the state are starting to get a tad antsy.
And, that is not to mention parents and supporters that are getting fed up watching states all around Louisiana padding up and moving forward with regular season contests.
Putting blame on one entity for football season being relegated to the sideline is pretty tricky.
On one hand, you have the LHSAA, who despite being a private organization, still finds themselves at the mercy of the governor, the legislature and ultimately the superintendents. During the summer, LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine met with the House Education Committee, the state superintendent and the BESE board president for the purpose of drafting COVID-19 guidelines for sports.
These guidelines were based on Louisiana’s re-opening plan, which brought Edward’s into the mix. As long as the state remained in Phase I or Phase II, football could not really move forward because there could be not contact internally or externally.
I really do not think that the LHSAA, the BESE board or the House Education Committee thought that we would still be in Phase II when they came up with these guidelines. If they would have, the plan to return football to the high schools may have been written a little differently.
But, it is what it is.
However, what Edwards, Bonine, BESE and the rest did not count on was the backlash they now face, especially when high school football from other states are being nationally televised on ESPN. Parents are frustrated, not because they are COVID-19 conspiracy theorists, but because their children that play the sport are frustrated.
They understand that if the situation does not move forward, football season in Louisiana will be lost for 2020.
Enter Jeff Landry, 50 legislators and parent petitions out the wazoo.
Landry, the state’s Attorney General, sent a letter to the LHSAA begging the organization to move forward with the game. That letter, coupled with letters from a number of state legislators, petitions from parents and phone calls to those same legislators, has helped motivate the House Education Committee to call a hearing meant to discuss high school sports.
The meeting, scheduled to have taken place this past Friday, gave the chance for parents to be heard and ask questions to the legislators on the committee.
One of the suggestions that has been pressed forward is for the parents to sign a waiver for their child to participate in football. We all know waivers are a hotly debated topic in the world of law, so we will see how far that idea travels.
Two facts that are certain to be used in any discussion of moving football forward are the declining cases of COVID-19 in the state and the report by the NFHS of zero cases of the virus due to football contact.
Any way you slice it, in order for high school football to get its wings and start to fly in 2020, several groups are going to have to sign off, including the legislature, the LHSAA, the principals and ultimately the superintendents.
Until then, there seems to be light at the end of the dark tunnel that is the absence of high school football in Louisiana.
Believe me, I would much rather watch a group of teenagers play the game than the spoiled, rich athletes of the NFL.
My hope is that we will have some type of statement from the LHSAA next week, perhaps when the executive committee meets on Wednesday.