No matter what happens with the rest of fall sports, public high schools in Virginia won’t be playing football until at least February.
Wednesday’s Virginia High School League executive committee meeting laid out three models for fall sports during the COVID-19 pandemic. None of the models include playing football, which has been categorized as a high-risk sport, this fall.
“It’s disappointing and frustrating, but I’m not surprised,” Ocean Lakes coach Joe Jones said, according to The Virginian-Pilot. “Three months ago, I was optimistic about it, but as time kept getting closer and closer to it, it was getting bleaker and bleaker to do anything in the fall. It doesn’t look like school is even going to start like it should in the fall. It may start, but it’s going to be revised schedules. I know if we’re not going to school with all of our students full-time that we’re not going to play football.”
All Virginia fall sports have been delayed until July 27, when the committee is scheduled to vote on the models.
“It’s important to remember that in all these models playing sports in the high risk category depends on being out of the current Phase III guidelines. All our efforts will continue towards advocating for the opening of sports and activities in a safe and reasonable way that will protect athletes, activity participants, coaches, officials, and the public,” VHSL executive director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun said. “The VHSL will continue making judgments based on the best available information and directives provided by the Governor, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).”
The first VHSL model is to leave all sports as is. Golf and cross country would play as planned this fall, while high-risk sports — field hockey, football, volleyball and cheer — will be canceled without rescheduling.
The second model would flip fall and spring seasons, with track and field, tennis, soccer, baseball and softball being played in the fall. Lacrosse wouldn’t move to the fall because of the high levels of risk.
The third model would delay all sports and adopt the Condensed Interscholastic Seasons Plan. Winter sports would be the first seasons of 2020-21, running from Dec. 14 until Feb. 20. The “fall” season would run from Feb. 15 through May 1, while the spring would be April 12 through June 26.
“The goal in all our discussions has been to provide our student-athletes and activity participants the best opportunity to return to the playing fields, courts, track, and stages during this school year in a safe environment as possible,” VHSL executive committee chairwoman Shannon Butler said. “Our decision today will allow members of the executive committee to collaborate with the regions and groups that they represent to make a decision on July 27 that is in the best interest of our students.”
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Michael Green, a senior linebacker who has committed to Virginia, told The Virginia-Pilot he’s fine with delaying the football season as long as they play at some point.
“As long as I have a season, no matter how long it takes, I’m fine with that,” Green said. “If spring comes and we didn’t have a season, that would be upsetting.
“It’s especially unfair for the seniors who play football in high school, but maybe not at the next level. I’m trying to look out for all the other seniors who’ve been putting in the hard work for their senior seasons.”
While college officials have begun to cancel games and seasons, most high school associations are still working through their options for the 2020-21 school year — for playing sports as well as returning to school for the first time since March.
“What we all need to do is take a deep breath and realize it’s bigger than football right now,” Charlottesville head coach Eric Sherry said, according to WVIR-TV, a local NBC affiliate. “You start dealing with something like this, and we’re still trying to figure out how to open schools up, to get kids into schools.”
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