BATON ROUGE, La. — State Senator and Education Committee Chairman Cleo Fields is asking the state board of education to suspend fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The news Monday night sent a shock wave through high school athletics.
"At first I had it sent to me by a parent," said Erath head coach Eric LeBlanc. "After, I had a couple coaches send it to me, you sent it to me, principal sent it to me."
Senator Cleo Fields wrote a letter to the President of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and to the Executive Director of the Louisiana School Boards Association asking them to suspended all activities of any kind that would include in-person student participation in a group setting, including conditioning, practice, and team meetings."
Fields said the issue is "much too critical" to leave decisions regarding fall sports in the hands of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA), which is a private entity.
"It is our responsibility to ensure that the health and safety of our children is placed above any athletic endeavor at any time or place," Fields said.
But the BESE may have no say in the decisions. In an interview with Geaux Preps, state board president Sandy Halloway said the BESE doesn't have authority, and can only make recommendations.
Holloway stated that, "in a nutshell", although BESE can make certain recommendations on how schools should handle specific health concerns, the board has NO authority over school district's decisions regarding athletics.— Geaux Preps (@GeauxPrepsLA) July 7, 2020
But those recommendations could be enough to halt football this falls, said LeBlanc.
"A lot of people know as well as I do, and our board does a good job of this, but the recommendations, are normally the recommendations or guidelines they pass to us," he said. "The recommendations they give are going to be the guidelines the follow after."
Of course, Monday's news that high school football could be shelved this fall isn't anything new. There has been growing doubts around football over the past couple of weeks. One coach told KATC Monday that football likely hinges on Louisiana moving to phase three later this month.
LeBlanc, however, wants a timeout, believing if there is a will to play high school football, there is a way to do is safely.
"Us as coaches, money is not a factor, we're going to find a way. Time is not a factor, we're going to find a way. That's one of the lessons we're trying to instill on our kids, there is always a way. Don't tell me there isn't a way, there is always a way."
The BESE is expected to hold a special meeting on July 14 to adopt emergency standards concerning the reopening of schools during the pandemic.
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