High school football season is still on, for now, but it will see a delayed start.
On Tuesday, the Mississippi High School Activities Association executive committee voted to delay the start of football by two weeks due to COVID-19 concerns. Cross country, swimming and volleyball will also see a delayed start.
The start of preseason football practices will now be Aug. 17, with the season to begin Sept. 4. Any games originally scheduled for the first two weeks of the season will not be made up.
“There was a consensus there after a lot of discussion about starting dates,” executive director Don Hinton said of Tuesday’s meeting.
Teams in Classes 1A, 5A and 6A can play no more than 10 games, while teams in 2A, 3A and 4A can play no more than nine.
The playoffs will begin as originally scheduled, concluding with the championships Dec. 4-5 at Mississippi State University.
Cross country, swimming and volleyball may begin preseason work on Aug. 10, while matches and meets start Aug. 24. Any matches or meets lost to the delay can be rescheduled with permission from both school administrations.
The postseasons for these sports will still be played as scheduled.
Hinton said the MHSAA will reassess this plan as needed. The fall sports season could be pushed back further if necessary.
“We’re going to continue to monitor, continue to have discussions with the state health department and with the governor’s office,” he said. “And, who knows. It’s been very fluid all along.
“We’ve been cautiously optimistic that we can play, first of all, in the fall. We’re going to do what’s best for our young people, so we’ll stay in touch with the experts.”
If games are played, the next question is: Will fans be allowed inside the gates? And if so, how many?
Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that “large gatherings of thousands of people in the stands to watch high school sports is going to be problematic in the fall unless we see a dramatic decline in the growth rates in the number of cases we have in Mississippi.”
Hinton said he is wanting further clarification from state health officials on how high school venues can accommodate fans safely. He said that would help the MHSAA and its schools to establish guidelines for hosting games and for what they should do if an athlete tests positive for COVID-19.
“Certainly, certain athletic and other activities can happen safely or mostly safely,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Monday. “Crowds of people – whenever you have crowds to gather, you have high risk. And I think that’s going to be the main thing. And how far do you mitigate this is going to be the central question going forward.”