The list of options is short, but there are options.
The Mississippi High School Activities Association, along with various school officials, met Tuesday to start formulating a plan in case the fall sports seasons can’t start on time.
Football was the centerpiece of the discussion. It’s the highest-profile of the fall sports, and the highest-risk when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.
MHSAA Executive Director Don Hinton said moving football season to the spring was discussed, but his preferred option would be to delay its start. The 2020 season is scheduled to begin Aug. 21.
“We could start even as late as September and still be OK,” Hinton said.
Football preseason drills are scheduled to start Aug. 3. The other fall sports – cross country, swimming and volleyball – begin July 27.
“If we can’t start on those dates, then we’re looking at delaying it, maybe starting two weeks (later) and going from there,” Hinton said. “But we’re still trying to do everything at this point in time, as fluid as everything is, to try to keep the fall seasons in the fall.”
The committee will meet again July 14, when it hopes to reach a consensus on what should be done. The COVID-19 numbers in Mississippi have been trending upward of late, and the MHSAA’s sports medicine partners believe it would be best to see what the numbers look like after the upcoming July 4 holiday weekend before a decision is made on fall sports.
MHSAA competition has been suspended since mid-March, with all spring sports championships being canceled. Teams were allowed to begin summer workouts June 1 so long as they followed certain health guidelines.
If the 2020-21 school year begins on time, it could well look like the end of last school year, with traditional classrooms replaced by virtual classrooms.
If fall sports are played, athletes who attend classes virtually will still be eligible to compete.
“If they are legally enrolled in your school and they’re following the proper guidelines, then they would be eligible, as long as they meet all the other requirements,” Hinton said.
“That’s a hard question, because most people would say if they can’t come to class, then they shouldn’t be able to play. But I don’t know if that’s a good answer.”