When it comes to high school football in America, four states reign supreme: Texas, California, Georgia and Florida. Go ahead and rank them in any order you’d like; I’m not here to compare and contrast their merits today.
Rather, I’m here to check in and shed a little light on how each of the other football factories have been handling the COVID-19 pandemic and a potential return to high school sports while we wait for the FHSAA Board of Directors to convene at 4 p.m. Monday.
So, without further ado, here’s the skinny:
This past Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the closure of bars, indoor restaurants, movie theaters and many other recently reopened businesses across the state, while further tightening restrictions in 29 of California’s most populous counties. By Friday, Newsom ordered the 32 counties on California’s coronavirus watch list to shut down public and private school campuses and switch to virtual instruction until those counties meet the state’s attestation requirements.
So, with 375,363 confirmed coronavirus cases and 7,595 confirmed deaths as of Friday, according to the California Department of Public Health, where does that leave high school sports in the Golden State? According to the Los Angeles Times, "optimism, on all fronts, is waning."
Like the FHSAA, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), which governs high school athletics in the state, will provide an update on Monday and is expected to delay the fall season following Newsom’s order to close schools. An article posted to the Salinas Californian’s website posited the CIF could follow the California Community College Athletic Association’s plan for all fall sports to begin practicing in mid-January alongside its winter counterparts.
The National Junior College Athletic Association, of which Northwest Florida State College is a member, announced a similar plan Tuesday, which would "shift all close-contact fall sports to the spring semester," including football and soccer.
For better or for worse, high school football remains on track in Georgia.
The Georgia High School Association (GHSA), which governs high school athletics in the state, announced Wednesday players would be allowed to begin using helmets Monday, though those helmets must be sanitized before and after each workout.
Although no changes have been made, the GHSA also announced it "started the discussion" concerning the dates of the first day for practice, which is slated for Aug. 1, and when competitions may resume.
Unlike California, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said Friday he favors a return on-campus instruction when the school year begins in August.
"I am a believer that kids need to be in the classroom," Kemp said. "And we’re working with the schools on doing that."
As of Saturday, Georgia had 139,872 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,168 confirmed deaths, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
While the University Interscholastic League (UIL) has yet to announce any changes to its schedule, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) — Texas’ largest private school league with more than 135 teams — announced Friday it would delay its schedule five weeks and truncate its season, according to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football; games are slated to begin Sept. 28 after a week of conditioning and two weeks of padded practice, which begins Sept. 8.
Meanwhile, individual counties and school districts are taking matters into their own hands while the UIL deliberates.
The Houston Independent School District, which represents 284 schools and stakes its claim as the largest public school system in the state, announced Wednesday it will begin classes after Labor Day and will conduct only virtual learning for the first six weeks of the school year, according to the Houston Chronicle. The school district will "not allow students to participate in extracurricular activities on school grounds" during those first six weeks, which means fall sports will not resume until Oct. 19 at the earliest.
Likewise, Dallas County announced Thursday it would not allow the public or private schools within the county’s borders to return to the classroom or participate in school-sponsored events, including sports, until Sept. 8, according to The Dallas Morning News, two weeks after the UIL season begins.
As of Saturday, Texas had 3,153,623 confirmed cases and 3,865 confirmed deaths, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE FLORIDA?
Quite frankly, I’m not qualified to answer that question. I’m neither a virologist, nor an epidemiologist. I can only give you the facts, so here they are.
According to the Florida Department of Health, the state reported 10,328 new coronavirus cases Saturday, and 90 new resident deaths. In total, 337,569 people have been infected, including 4,368 non-residents and 5,002 people have died since the pandemic began, including 107 non-residents.
Those numbers put us right smack dab between California and Texas, both of which look to be leaning toward postponing their fall high school athletic seasons.
Meanwhile, 12 states —Arizona, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia — have already announced plans to delay their seasons, according to High School Football America.
What does all that mean? Again, I’m no expert, but I wouldn’t expect good news on Monday.