Teams who are hit by the coronavirus during the LHSAA football playoffs will be forced to forfeit games, even if it's the championship. That comes from LHSAA director Eddie Bonine, who addressed the media following the league's executive committee meeting Tuesday.
The policy doesn't waiver from the league's handling of other fall sports. But it did lead to much greater interest from the state's sports media. Will teams hide the virus? How will this be policed? Will there be finger pointing? How do you name a champion?
Bonine touched on each of these questions, saying finger pointing has been minimal during the regular season and accusations have been unsubstantiated. Bonine said hiding a virus outbreak would be hard given that each positive test is reported to the schools and Department of Health.
"The athletes are students first," he said. "If there is COVID, or COVID related [sickness], the school or parish has to report those everyday to the LDH portal. So it's difficult to hide that if they're a student."
Last week more than two dozen LHSAA games were impacted by positive COVID cases, and as of the LHSAA's press conference 16 games this week already involve teams in quarantine. The LHSAA also alluded that some schools won't finish the season, pausing activities until after Thanksgiving.
Still, the league is preparing to move into the postseason in less than two weeks, which is a victory in its own right given the circumstances. Even Bonine seemed to feel a sense of accomplishment just seeing the finish line.
"We're running cross country, I'm leaving for Natchitoches next week for cross country. We're going to Shreveport for swimming. We've getting volleyball in. We're there Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, we're at the Pontchartrain Center," he said. "We're having a postseason during this mess. And I think that's the way I'm looking at it. We're making lemonade. As much lemonade as we can with these lemons."
The football tournament format is the same, but building out the bracket will come with caveats. Bonine said teams will have to have play a minimum of four games to qualify, something that won't affect many teams in Louisiana. Seeding will be based on power rankings, but that formula, Bonine says, will be tweaked to account for teams playing fewer games.
The Prep Classic will be played at the Superdome, ending all conversations of going elsewhere. All nine divisions will play over three days, from December 26-28. Bonine said each game will be sold as an individual ticket and the Superdome will be emptied and cleaned between games. While the Saints could be on pace to host 15,000 fans by Christmas Day, Bonine said he does not expect to be able to hold a similar number.
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