Time is now for changes to prep sports calendar

Published 6:19 pm Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The news from LHSAA regarding football practice or games not being allowed until the state enters the fourth and final phase of the LHSAA’s re-opening model wasn’t good, but should not have been unexpected either.

The writing has been on the wall the past few weeks as COVID-19 cases across the state continued to soar. Any expectation that football would proceed as normal was based on wishful thinking more than anything else. That became even more apparent late last week when colleges started canceling football games and all fall sports in some cases.

Some of those games were to generate millions of dollars in TV revenue. When people are giving up million dollar checks to not play football, things are serious.

The portion of Monday’s news that was most disturbing to me was LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine stating there has been some discussion about flipping the fall and spring sports calendar but that “it was still not the first option.”

It probably should be. Time to make a decision is running short, as there is no evidence that it will be safe to play football anytime soon as COVID cases continue to escalate.

It’s time to get creative and start working on a plan to play the safest sports first, which would provide the added benefit of being able to have a complete football season in the spring if the virus transmission rate can be brought under control.

Postponing football, the most popular and biggest-revenue producing sport in the state, is an unpopular idea, but also one that is becoming increasingly unavoidable. With the state only in Phase 2 of the LHSAA plan, only cross country and swimming competition between schools is allowed. Progression to Phase 3 would allow volleyball to start, according to the LHSAA plan.

That would be a great boost, but getting in the sports that can be played safely while you can is an idea that must be considered. We don’t know if things are going to be better or worse regarding the pandemic in the winter and spring months.

Sports with no or little contact such as baseball, softball, track and field, tennis and golf could be moved up while football and basketball are moved back in hopes of better playing conditions later in the school year. I’m sure coaches in the traditional spring sports would rather not move up, but these are trying times and sacrifices will have to be made. Better to have some kind of season than none at all.

We could get creative and hold baseball/softball fall leagues that are separate from the traditional spring seasons. Organize leagues by geography rather than the traditional districts. Hold tournaments on weekends. Anything would be better than nothing. Sitting around pouting because there is no football is not going to help anyone. Give the student-athletes with a chance to safely compete the chance to do so while conditions are suitable. I don’t care if it is an official sport or if there is a championship trophy at the end. Let’s just make the most of what the health climate will allow. Let’s not waste playable days wishing we had football if that’s not a realistic option.

As we saw last spring, the pandemic escalated quickly and we lost the last two months of the academic calendar. Moving baseball and softball up, or playing some type of unofficial fall ball season, would allow most of the kids who missed most of their seasons last year to get some games back. They’d have some exposure to college recruiters. But, most importantly, they’d be playing. After this four-month break, we should all be thankful to have whatever kind of competition that can be held responsibly. This isn’t the time to cling to the past or try to hold on to the familiar. Things are hard and all we can do is try to make the best of a bad situation. Any kind of ball beats nothing at all. It’s time to start figuring out what we can do and make that happen, not sit around and just hope that we can suddenly return to the traditions of the past.

Warren Arceneaux covers prep sports. Email him at warceneaux@americanpress.com