Many Louisiana schools are scheduled to reopen next month, but if the state is still in Phase 2 of reopening, high contact sports like football will not resume.
High school athletics will reopen in phases and will be tied to the state’s larger reopening plan, according to Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) Executive Director Eddie Bonine.
“We gotta have education first and then we’re gonna have athletics that will be closely behind,” Bonine told the House Committee on Education on Monday. “But I truly believe there’s a blend there that we have to have.”
Under Phase 2, teams in sports with little to no contact, like cross country and swimming, are allowed to practice and compete, while teams in high-contact sports like football, soccer, basketball and wrestling are not.
They’ll have to wait until Phase 3 to practice and Phase 4 to compete against other schools. The guidelines go into effect on Aug. 10.
Guidance released by the Louisiana Department of Education on how schools should reopen defers to LHSAA to set standards for fall athletics.
Earlier this month, Louisiana state Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge) sent a letter to the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana School Boards Association urging them to suspend all fall sports.
“This is a critical issue and it is too important to leave solely up to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association,” Fields said in a press release. “It is our responsibility to ensure that the health and safety of our children is placed above athletic endeavor at any time or place.”
Bonine did not address Fields’ letter directly but told the House Committee on Education that LHSAA does not plan to cancel the coming sports season.
Other states, like Pennsylvania and New Mexico, have already decided to reschedule fall sports, pushing back the start of the season several months or moving it to the spring.
Despite the uncertainty as to when certain fall sports seasons will be able to start, Bonine said his organization wants to keep the regular sports season in place if at all possible.
He did say it was something they may have to look into, but for now, the idea is “on the back burner.”
Bonine says LHSAA is working closely with BESE and LDOE to ensure that the necessary health and safety standards are in place to keep players, coaches and spectators safe.
He noted that having no fans at games might be a necessary safety precaution, but said the financial hardship for some schools could be debilitating.
Fields is urging BESE to adopt a rule suspending all athletic activities for the fall at its July 14 meeting.
“Currently, BESE does not have a rule in place to protect our student-athletes,” Fields said. “I’m asking them to step up and take action to protect our children.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, members of the board will determine minimum health rules for the reopening of public schools as required by House Bill 59.
The bill — now known as Act 9 — narrowly passed last month and was signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards on July 8.
While LHSAA determines practice standards during the academic year, its member schools go unchecked during the summer break.
At one member school, Teurlings Catholic High School in Lafayette, a football player who had been practicing with the team for about a month tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized with pneumonia, according to USA Today Sports.
As of last week, Teurlings Catholic High School was scheduled to resume team practices on Monday.