Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to extend Phase 2 for at least two more weeks could push back the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s timeline to return. Whether or not that’s the case remains a mystery, though.
The LHSAA has not issued an update after announcing its initial plan to return with a tentative start date set for football on Oct. 8. No games would be played before that start date.
That plan went in line with Louisiana moving to Phase 3 at the end of August, which would give schools 35 preparation days — 14 days for contact practices in Phase 3 followed by 21 days of collision practices — in a 42-day window.
With Phase 2 extending to at least Sept. 11, under the same guidelines with 35 preparation days, the earliest start date would be Oct. 15.
But that’s if the LHSAA sticks with its 35-day preparation plan. Sterlington head coach Lee Doty believes there’s a way to deviate from that plan and still get enough practice time in for the new start date.
“I’m still hopeful,” Doty said. “Still being positive about this. I looked up at the calendar, and I still say a way we can start the weekend of Oct. 9. It looks like you can still get three weeks of contact in, possibly four weeks. And that’s not much less than what we get when we open the season in August. I still see a way we can start a regular eight-game season.”
If the LHSAA continues to operate within the parameters of the state’s guidelines, it would be protected by Legislative Act 9, which was signed into law in June, and limits legal liability that public and private schools could face because of COVID-19.
Should the LHSAA choose not to follow this law and its phased guidelines, the association would then assume COVID-19 liability.
With limitations still in place regarding Phase 2, high school coaches across the state voiced their opinions on the matter. Many head coach Jess Curtis told The Morning Drive with Aaron Dietrich and Jake Martin that he believes decision makers are losing sight of what these same kids lost already this year.
“They lost spring sports, spring school, prom, graduation,” Curtis said. “We do everything right. We show some real growth as to how to kind of live with this dilemma, and we’re told that if the numbers go down and hospitalizations go down, we’ll phase up. But that phase up doesn’t happen. That’s aggravating.
“The reason I’m talking about this is it’s my job to protect these kids. Kids working their tails off, believing. We asked them to do something, and they’ve done it. Seems like the whole state has done it with not many flare ups. I just scratch my head as to why we’re stuck in this rut.”
Catholic (Baton Rouge) head coach Gabriel Fertitta took to Twitter following the governor’s announcement to call upon the LHSAA.
“LHSAA, it’s time to step up,” Fertitta wrote. “We appreciate your caution and diligence so far. We appreciate your guidance along with the governor. It’s now time to actually do something instead of hiding behind the governor. Step up like every association around us! On the clock.”
Most coaches have pled their case, and pointed to their players as the main reason they should play.
Caldwell Parish’s Buster Duplissey took a different approach. His plea involved the entire community.
“High school football right now is exactly what this state needs,” Duplissey said. “And I’m not just saying that. I believe it. Look at everything that’s going on in the world. We need something that brings people together. Something that brings communities together. There’s nothing that does that better than high school football.”