BATON ROUGE, La. – Louisiana high schools are ready to kick off their football seasons the second weekend of October, an official with the sports’ governing body said Friday.
The Louisiana High School Athletics Association’s executive committee, which meets on Wednesday, still must approve the decision, LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine told the state House of Representatives’ education committee. But he expressed confidence his board was ready to move forward.
“It’s time,” he said.
Louisiana currently is in “phase two” of the White House-approved restrictions meant to control the spread of COVID-19. Bonine said full-contact football games would be played on Oct. 8, 9 and 10 even if the state remains in phase two, which contradicts previous plans discussed in July.
House Speaker Clay Schexnayder said it was time to turn the “Friday night lights” back on.
“It’s time for our state to move to phase three,” Schexnayder added.
Moving to phase three would lead to loosening restrictions on businesses and public gatherings. Louisiana has not yet met the White House criteria for moving to phase three, state public health officials say. The current order expires next Friday, so state officials likely will dig into the data in the coming days and make an announcement about any possible changes early next week.
Attorney General Jeff Landry issued an opinion Friday stating that he does not believe holding football games would cause schools to lose COVID-19 liability protections the legislature established this year. Attorney general opinions do not carry the force of law.
Bonine said the exact procedures remain to be determined. For example, there is discussion about limiting crowds to half of a stadium’s normal capacity, but that decision has not been made.
No one at Friday’s House committee meeting, whether lawmakers, other officials or members of the public, said they opposed beginning the football season in October. State Sen. Cleo Fields, who chairs the Senate’s education committee, in July called for all fall sports to be suspended.
Rep. Raymond Garofalo, the committee’s chairman, said the committee has received 173 emails in favor of playing football and none against doing so. Other fall sports, which include cross country, swimming and volleyball, already are moving ahead with their seasons, Bonine said.
Rep. Gary Carter expressed concern about athletes contracting COVID-19 and bringing it home to their parents or grandparents, who might be at risk of serious complications. Bonine said requiring schools to test their athletes for COVID-19 will not be mandated because of the cost.