As the LHSAA continues to kick the can farther down the road on whether or not a season will be played this fall, West Ouachita head coach Matt Middleton has but one simple request — decide the fate of the football season sooner rather than later.
“I 100 percent believe a decision needs to be made, period,” Middleton told Sports Talk 977’s “Morning Drive with Aaron Dietrich and Jake Martin” Wednesday morning. “I’m ready for somebody to stand up and say, “This is what we’re going to. We’re going to flip the seasons with hope. Or we’re going to bang the season.” Whatever it is, I’d rather know one way or the other. That’s been my No. 1 frustration because everybody else is waiting on somebody to make a decision.
“It’s one of those (decisions) where one way or the other, the decision has to be made. It’s not going to be popular. If you play, there are going to be a lot of people angry you’re playing. If you don’t play, then there’s going to be the same amount of people that’s angry about that. So you’re not going to please everybody, but I am ready for a decision for the sake of my kids, my players.”
The anticipation of a decision being made started to reach a boiling point when LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine told the House Education Committee Monday that Louisiana high school football teams would not be able to practice, let alone play, until Phase 4.
Louisiana is currently in Phase 2, and it remains unclear what Phase 4 will look like since there is no fourth phase of the White House’s recommendations for re-opening the U.S. economy. That said, the gradual move to Phase 4, which encompasses a combination of state, federal and NFHS guidelines tempered by input from the LHSAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, would require a downward trajectory of positive cases over 14 days.
“I don’t see us moving out of Phase 2. I don’t see it,” Middleton said. “There’s nothing you can say to convince me of that. On the 20th, when the Governor comes out and says we’re going to be staying in Phase 2, that’s 21 more days of Phase 2. Then if you’re lucky to get to Phase 3, well, that’s 21 more days before the LHSAA lets you even compete. You’re looking at 42 days of being up in the air and not knowing.
“I’m ready to get to the point of, ‘Hey, let’s move it to the spring, but here’s the deal — then you have baseball and basketball coaches that it affects. And at West Ouachita, a lot of our kids play multiple sports and that makes it more difficult. I try to stay optimistic, but it’s hard at this point to put a finger on when we’re going to play. I just want the LHSAA to set a date and say if we’re not playing by this point, this is our plan.”
Middleton said he could likely have his team ready to play on three to four weeks of practice time in pads, but he wasn’t sure how much time would actually be required to get all teams acclimated for the season.
Meanwhile, he, along with every other coach in the state, continues to prepare for a season that frankly might not happen.
“I think it’s more of a mental thing to keep the kids motivated,” Middleton said. “In the same light, it’s the coaches too. They go through the same emotions of, “What are we going to do? Are we going to play?’”
The answer to that question remains elusive.