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LHSAA reaffirms commitment to not cancel fall sports

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Posted at 6:27 PM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 23:58:18-04

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association has reaffirmed its commitment to not canceling fall sports.

In a letter sent to parents on Wednesday, LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine said, "The LHSAA is committed to conducting fall sports to the direct benefit of your student athletes," reaffirming what the league said last week.

You can read the full letter below.

Bonine went on to reaffirm the league's commitment to student safety, and stressed the importance of Louisiana's recovery to playing football this fall.

Pressure is mounting around the LHSAA, though, as it continues its "wait-and-see" approach.

The governor's order on Tuesday to keep the state in Phase 2 until Aug. 7 already prevents teams from starting practice on time.

Once in Phase 3, teams can practice with pads, but player-on-player contact can't begin until after Phase 3.

Southside High Football Coach Josh Fontenot says the lost week doesn't necessarily prevent teams from being ready for the Sept. 4 openers, but at some point teams need to have an extended period of hitting before it's safe to actually play games.

"Those rules are in place to get acclimated to the heat, get acclimated to the contact you have," he said. "There is going to have to be a time frame that if we start practice a week later then the season may need to start a week later, if we start practice a month later, than the season might need to start a month later."

Neighboring states Mississippi and Texas have already modified their start dates, pushing their seasons back.

Louisiana has simply tied its timeline to the state's phases, something that remains a moving target.

Because of that uncertainty and the phase threshold assigned to football, Fontenot believes its is probably best held until the spring.

"In my opinion it's the best way to give everybody the best chance to play. But there are no guarantees. We could have a flare up in the spring, and have already switched the seasons and football gets canceled," he said. "It's a gamble to put off a sport that you're not allowed to play, and keep pushing it back, pushing it back. We don't know when the end in sight is. Governor Edward extended phase two for two more weeks, but he could extend it two more weeks after this."

Speaking to the state last week, Bonine softened his stance (previously a hard no) on switching football with spring sports.

But where the LHSAA stands on the safety of baseball and softball is unclear.

The spreadsheet they provided to the board of education only included fall and winter sports. On it, the only sports that can "play games" in Phase 3 are cross country, swimming and volleyball. Even soccer is deemed unsafe until after Phase 3.

LETTER TO PARENTS FROM LHSAA:

"As Executive Director for the LHSAA I and my assistant directors have received a number of emails from parents, athletes and concerned citizens asking the LHSAA not to cancel fall sports in 2020. I want to thank all of you for reaching out and conveying your concerns and know those concerns are shared by this office and its entire staff. I want to utilize this release to publicly acknowledge we have received your emails and we are listening. The LHSAA is an education-based association and a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) that represents over 20,000 high schools and over 8 million students. It is important as a state, we get our students back into a learning environment in a safe and organized manner. The LHSAA has been and will continue to work diligently collaborating with our member school principals, athletic directors, parish board administrations and coaches to appropriately blend sports into the school setting when deemed safe and reasonable. We will adhere to all standards set forth in recently passed legislature in ACT 9 and those adopted by the Board of Elementary Secondary Education for the safe opening of schools. The LHSAA is committed to conducting fall sports to the direct benefit of your student athletes however, we will not put schools in conflict or in harm's way. We have no intention of cancelling fall sports unless schools are closed or the pandemic dictates that it is not safe to play. As much as your communications are welcome here they need to also be directed to and heard by our Governor, your legislators, your mayors/parish presidents, your city councilmen and women. Your message is warranted and should also be heard by all of those who feel a need to disregard our state and local governmental agencies safety guidelines to help prevent the spread of the virus. Gathering in large groups, not wearing masks, not staying home when symptoms are present, and not taking the appropriate steps to quarantine when symptoms are present will only delay and possibly drastically effect fall sports. In closing, I would like to thank everyone for his or her concern. Please be assured that the LHSAA and I are doing everything possible to see that fall sports take place. This can be accomplished with everyone's cooperation and help."

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