The Georgia High School Association finally made a decision Monday — or so it seems.
Following a meeting by the organization’s board of trustees, it was announced the beginning of football season will be pushed back two weeks, but that would be the only concession made in the face of the novel coronavirus.
Otherwise, practice is still set to open July 27, players are still expected to strap on the pads Aug. 1, and every other fall sport is scheduled to go on as planned.
Now, this doesn’t add up to me. Why delay football games if the practice schedule remains unchanged? If the student-athletes that participate in softball, cross country and volleyball are expected to begin their seasons on time despite the abbreviated offseason, shouldn’t the same be true for football players?
My gut tells me Monday’s “decision” was more a stall tactic than a declaration.
There’s been nothing to slow the momentum the GHSA has picked up since it began its return from a 12-and-a-half-week hiatus June 8 with a conditioning period that included strict guidelines that restricted the use of locker rooms, limited the size of workout groups to 20, required weights to be sanitized between use, and forbade any form of scrimmaging.
Over the ensuing weeks, the restrictions loosened to allow for groups of up to 50 and for the use of sport-specific equipment. This past Wednesday, the GHSA announced it would permit the use of football helmets beginning this week.
Obviously, the GHSA is not concerned about COVID-19. That much is clear from its insistence in pushing forward, even in the face of around 300 positive tests among athletes and athletic staff reported to the GHSA from June 8 to July 14.
There were 1,236 total cases of COVID-19 and two deaths statewide on March 12 when the GHSA recommended all its member schools suspend spring activities. When the GHSA announced the starting date for its conditioning period on May 21, there were 43,567 confirmed cases and 2,098 deaths.
I understand the virus was still new and unknown in early March, but have we learned all that much more about its method of transmission and lethality since late May? As of Monday, Georgia is looking at 145,575 confirmed cases, 3,176 deaths and a seven-day moving average of more than 3,000 new cases a day.
Clearly, the spread of COVID-19 is not slowing down, which is why I do not understand the GHSA’s decision.
If you’re intent on playing through the pandemic, it doesn’t make much sense to delay football season by two weeks — nothing is likely to look much different Sept. 4 than Aug. 21. If you’re trying to protect student-athletes and those that come in contact with them from the coronavirus, it doesn’t make sense to play period.
Instead of deciding it was time to return to normal, or that it was the appropriate time to prioritize safety, the GHSA went with a half measure that does little but buy it — or preferably the respective school systems — more time.
But eventually, someone is going to have to take the reigns and make a decision.
Is the coronavirus something we’re convinced won’t effect student-athletes, or will we shutdown practices and quarantine players when they inevitably do?