The football season for LHSAA “select” and “non-select” schools will definitively begin October 8-10.
For weeks officials of the Louisiana Department of Education(LDE), Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) Board, Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) and state lawmakers bantered back and forth about the start date for the prep football season. It was a team effort by all of the above that finally got the firm date established.
The groups worked for more than a week behind the scenes — an effort that wrapped up Thursday night in advance of Friday morning’s House Education Committee meeting at the State Capitol. The agreement alleviated LHSAA coronavirus pandemic liability for schools and conflicts with Louisiana’s phased reopening.
“In this case, I waited as long as I could wait to make sure we got every path covered,” LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine said afterward. “And I truly believe our coaches and all the local administration people … they’ve kicked tail, and they are ready. With the hand that they have been dealt now, they are going to get another case of normality.”
Rep. Buddy Mincey Jr., R-Denham Springs, helped jump-start the process by requesting an opinion on Act 9-related liability for the LHSAA and its schools. Mincey was the original author of the legislation that became Act 9.
Attorney General Jeff Landry then issued an opinion stating that playing high school football would not carry liability for LHSAA schools under Act 9. When the Thursday meeting began, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, made an opening statement, which gave away the pending announcement of the agreement. Bonine also thanked all the groups involved for their work to reach an agreement.
“I appreciate you all working hard and getting things done like this,” Schexnayder said. “This is huge. I want to be clear … this meeting and its actions are not an attempt to ignore public safety. It’s about beginning to move out of a temporary abnormal and back to life.”
Bonine then told the group he is prepared to go to the LHSAA executive committee on Sept. 9 with a proposal to move forward with full-contact football practices and the season on Oct. 8-10, regardless of Louisiana’s phased approach to reopening.
When asked, Bonine said he expected the proposal to pass without issue, clearing the way for LHSAA’s football schools to do full contact football drills late next week, leading to the possibility of scrimmages and possibly a jamboree before the start of an eight-game football regular season. Playoffs are set to run through the month of December.
Interestingly, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statement after the meeting which stated that his proclamations were never intended to keep the LHSAA from playing football this fall. The sentiment was echoed by Cade Brumley, the state’s new Superintendent of Education, and BESE Board President Sandy Holloway.
“My proclamations have never said that you can’t play high school football. The LHSAA made a decision to link the phase that we’re in with my proclamation with what they would allow to happen on the high school campus,” Edwards said in a statement released Friday. “They have opted to change that guidance now in the event that we don’t go to Phase 3.
Plans for spectators for all fall sports are still to be finalized, but could tentatively allow 50% occupancy for football. Volleyball will be allowed to have a total of 50 spectators for its games next week under Phase 2 guidelines.
Jonesboro-Hodge High School head football coach Terrance Blankenship was very pleased with finally hearing on when the season would start.
“All we have ever asked was to give us a definite date of when we could play,” said Blankenship. “We felt all along that we would have a season but not knowing when it was going to start made it very difficult on the coaches and players. Now we know how to proceed.”