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Jennings takes the field against St. James during the LHSAA Football Class 3A Championship at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana on Friday, December 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Lake Charles American Press, Kirk Meche)

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association on Wednesday set a tentative plan to start the football regular season Oct. 8.

And there are many possibilities in that plan.

The optimal plan is an eight-game season and keeping the Prep Classic state championship games in the Superdome, but there are alternative plans for a six or seven-game regular season and moving the Prep Classic to another venue in January.

LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine called it an ambitious plan and said he hopes it will allow football and all fall sports to avoid the same fate of spring sports, which were canceled after the boys state basketball tournament on March 14 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"If you are not ambitious, you will not get anything done," Bonine said. "I want the kids to play football. Parents wanted the kids to play football yesterday. But we have to do this safely.

"What is the alternate here, no sports? And we already went down that ugly road in the spring, and we are going to do everything we can to prevent that from happening again.

"You all remember we waited until the last possible minute to cancel (spring sports). We waited till the last possible minute to finish the boys basketball championships. We were one of the last, if not the last, event in the United States still participating that Friday and Saturday when we finished the boys public school basketball championships.

"I think you know the Executive Committee and myself, we are going to do the best we can to get kids to play and coaches to coach."

The eight-game schedule, starting with Week 3 opponents, would put the Prep Classic in the final week of December, sandwiched between Christmas and New Year's Day.

"We have been working with the Superdome," Bonine said. "We still have the Prep Classic scheduled for Dec. 10-12.

"We are talking about the following week and we are talking about potentially the week after Christmas which will give us an eight-game, seven-game or six-game schedule, ending in the Prep Classic in the Superdome. We have to work around the New Orleans Bowl, and we have to potentially work around or work with the preparation for the Sugar Bowl. In a nutshell, that is where we are as I sit here today."

A seven-game regular season would put the finals in the third week of December. To keep the Prep Classic on Dec. 10-12 would require a six-game regular season. Bonine called a six-game season a worst-case scenario.

If the season has to be pushed back further, Bonine admitted that the LHSAA has discussed finding another venue because the Superdome will not be available after December. He mentioned Tulane, Louisiana-Lafayette and Shreveport's Independence Stadium as possibilities.

Bonine also said it may be necessary to reduce the number of teams that make the playoffs to reduce the number of weeks needed to complete it and the LHSAA has been looking at- 16 and 32-team brackets.

Whatever regular season length the LHSAA ultimately goes with all hinges on the state moving smoothly to Phase 3 by the start of September. Once in Phase 3, Bonine said players will need about two weeks in full pads, then three weeks of full-contact before games start with a possibility for scrimmages or jamborees on Oct. 1-3.

"What we need is 10 to 14 days in Phase 3 at the discretion of the governor and Dr. Greg Stewart (Tulane's team physician and member of the LHSAA sports medicine advisory committee)," Bonine said. "If we see that decline in those positive cases, then Dr. Stewart, in communication with the governor's office, can say ‘Eddie, we can start the collision sports.' After that for 21 days we need full contact and collisions to toughen the players up, so we can start football."

As for fans in the stands, the LHSAA said it will leave that up to local parishes and school boards.

"We are primarily what happens on the field, court and track," Stewart said. "We are going to leave it up to the schools, superintendents and parish officials to decide what happens in the stands.

"The local officials can be more strict than what the governor establishes, but obviously not less strict."

Another item of note is the LHSAA has given select schools the option to play their state championship games at the same venue as the non-select schools and has sent out surveys to select schools.

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