Health of student athletes should be priority

Published 6:47 am Tuesday, August 11, 2020

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If you are a football fan, you have undoubtedly heard the reports that the sport’s major conferences are currently discussing the cancellation of the upcoming college football season.

The Mid-American Conference announced on Saturday they would cancel the 2020-21 season and reports are swirling that the Big Ten will possibly be next, though no official announcement has been made yet. (And conflicting reports have been published.)

We are not sure — at the time of this writing — if any other conference will make this decision, but if they do, it begs the question about the viability of a high school football season.

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If the landscape of the current pandemic is too volatile for the NCAA, imagine what it would be like for high school athletics.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association previously decided it would not push back its season, and the Georgia High School Association is currently planning to proceed with football games on Sept. 4.

But, we’re starting to see some of the worries many has feared coming to fruition.

In Georgia last week, schools reopened, and in some counties,  it was nothing short of a disaster. Photos were circulating of kids packed in halls with no face coverings and other photos showed students taking group pictures without masks.

Several schools have already reported positive COVID cases.

Shortly after those cases were reported, the Georgia High School Association announced the cancellation of scrimmages, but overall remains on track to start football season in September.

In Alabama, some schools have already returned and at least one reported having a student displaying COVID-19 symptoms and five students have been quarantined.

In some school districts, such as Lanett City Schools, students will begin the year taking online instruction, but the football team, band, cheerleaders, etc. will still be allowed to practice and play games.

We’re not picking on Lanett — this is happening in other school districts around the state as well — but it’s difficult to explain how going in a school building is unsafe, but participating in an athletic event with students from other schools is safe enough to continue.

And it’s not just any sport — it’s one where students are in close contact, constantly make physical contact, scream and talk back and forth in close proximity and sweat on one another.

That’s essentially the opposite of every COVID-19 protocol.

College presidents are seemingly worried about student athletes being on a huge campus, attending classes, and then playing sports.

How do you shield someone from COVID-19 in that scenario? Without a bubble — like the NBA and NHL are doing — it’s probably impossible.

And obviously no type of bubble is possible in high school athletics.

Typically, you’d expect some kind of trickle-down effect from the postponement or cancelation of the college football season.

If that’s the ultimate decision, it’ll be interesting to see if there’s any reaction from the AHSAA, the AISA or GHSA.