The LHSAA wants to play football and do it safely. The league has a new plan, a self-proclaimed ambitious one.
"If you're not ambitious you don't get anything done. That's what we're trying to get done," said LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine.
Wednesday, the league announced it would push its opening night to Thursday, October 8, 2020. Teams will play their week three match-up, but after that, the specifics are muddy. Ideally, the LHSAA wants to move back the championships two weeks and play eight games. But the availability of the Superdome is in flux. The league said it could seek an alternative location, specifically naming Cajun Field, and Tulane's Yulman Stadium as potential options if the LHSAA can't secure the home of the Saints.
“The prospects of playing a full regular season are probably not going to happen, of course," said Eric Held, the director of the Louisiana High School Coaches Association. "Our coaches know that and they want to play as much of a regular season and a postseason as we can.”
Wednesday's plan is the second the LHSAA has unveiled this summer. In July, the league released a spreadsheet that detailed what fall sports can and cannot do with relation to the state's reopening phase. That document said that football couldn't play games until the state progressed past phase III. With Governor John Bel Edwards extending phase II guidelines for three more weeks, making playing a season under those protocols unlikely, Wednesday's update, amending that standard, is a boost for football teams across the state.
"I know our kids were excited about it," said Church Point head coach John Arceneaux, who received the news as the Bears wrapped up practice Wednesday. "We we finally have some positive news. It makes things feel like we're gonna play football. We've been saying we gotta be ready, gotta be ready. But we got a start date and that's a great thing."
"With everything that we've gone through. I don't think anybody is going to cry about a 7 game season," he added. "Everybody is just excited to have the opportunity to play."
Once the state moves into phase III, and the state sees new coronavirus cases decrease over a 10-14 day period, the league will allow teams to begin hitting in practice. After three weeks of that, it's all systems go. But what happens if Louisiana doesn't progress? What happens if Governor Edwards extends phase II, yet again?
"It would be another curveball, looking fastball and getting another curveball. It would be very ambitious of us for us to plan how it would work with other sports," said Bonine. "That would be difficult but I don't think it will happen."
"If something should happen and we stay in phase II, it's not looking too good," said Lee Bellard, a Church Point principal on the LHSAA's executive committee. "You can't jump the gun and start too early. Then, we're back to square one. It's something that unfortunately is going to take time, and the cooler heads will prevail eventually."
"As coaches, it's a fluid situation," said Arceneaux. "We have to be ready to adapt to whatever is in front of us. That start date could change if the numbers don't improve in the state and if we don't move out of phase II on the 28th. As coaches, we have to just be fluid, we have to adapt to the situation. No different than what we ask our kids on Friday nights. You have to be ready to handle the adversity, adapt to what's coming at you and be ready to move forward."
The league's updated protocols do not impact cross-country or swimming, which can compete in phase II. Volleyball's season is pushed back until September 8th.
The LHSAA also announced Wednesday that it has invited select-schools the opportunity to play it's championships alongside the non-select schools. Bonine said there is support, but the details will hinge on the results of a survey the league sent those schools earlier in the week.
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