With more COVID-19-related questions than answers at this time, the Mississippi High School Activities Association is keeping all options on the table with the 2020 high school football season quickly approaching.
During a Tuesday meeting of the MHSAA executive council, board members discussed their approach to the 2020 season as the pandemic continues to present a moving target. Executive Director Don Hinton, who also announced his retirement Tuesday, explained that the council didn’t make any final decisions, but they continue to consider alterations to the upcoming season based on the virus.
Hinton divulged two primary options with the preferred option, other than beginning practices on August 3 as planned, being to push back the start date by a few weeks. Several member schools have inquired about the possibility of swapping the fall and spring sports calendars, but Hinton and the council have reservations about this option due to spring sports having their most recent seasons cut short.
Football practices are set to begin in early August while other fall sports get the go-ahead on July 27th, but according to Hinton “more than likely those dates would change.” Mississippi’s high school football season begins much earlier than others, which Hinton says could be a good thing in this case.
“We’re often criticized for playing in Mississippi so early for heat and humidity purposes. We also can play up to 12 games, while in most states its 10 or 11,” he said. “We’re also good in Mississippi where our region games for playoff purposes are the last games of the season. If you’re in an 8-team region, your last 7 games are region games, so those are some good things that help us in making these decisions.”
Week one of the high school football season is currently set for late August.
Hinton did add that football, due the contact, carries a more inherent risk as opposed the other fall sports such as cross country, swimming, etc. With that risk, additional questions arise such as ‘does a positive test require the quarantine of an entire team or just the individual player?’ & ‘Will there be fans in attendance?’
Tuesday’s meeting of the 15-member council didn’t result in a consensus on a plan moving forward, but the council will be watching the trend of the virus over the 4th of July weekend ahead of their next meeting on July 14th. The members did reach a consensus that they hope to see Mississippi student-athletes on the field this fall, a sentiment echoed by players and families across the state.
“It’s amazing how important sports and activities are to our families. They are passionate folks saying ‘please, let us get back to normal’. Sports bring people together, and of course, it’s a good time for that be happening,” Hinton said.
Workouts have been going on in Mississippi since June 1st.
Hinton’s retirement is effective at the end of 2020.