Bonine comments on potential for LHSAA fall sports, final phase of school practice investigation

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The Executive Committee of the LHSAA met Wednesday to discuss how to move forward with plans for fall sports in the state, as well as to discuss potential violations by schools regarding gathering with coaches illegally in groups larger than allowed previously.

LHSAA Executive Director addressed many of the issues directly.

Will the prep football season begin on time?

“There was no decision made on that today,” Bonine said. “However, we did discuss that but I do want to say that there was an article ran discussing how potentially we were going to discuss flipping seasons, moving spring sports to fall and fall sports to spring. That was not entertained today nor was that a topic that we were going to discuss. It would have to be drastic times for drastic measures if we got to that. There was no appetite for that in the committee today.”

Would there be consideration to push the season back, to delay the start of the season and extend it to the Christmas holidays or beyond with non-select state championship football games set for December 11 and 12 in New Orleans?

“We have thought about it,” Bonine said. “You know my attitude about athletes being able to compete in the Superdome. It’s a life-changing experience. We start at the Superdome and work our way back. I’m not sliding the schedule. If we lose week one, we lose week one. If we lose week two, we lose week two. If we lose week three, we lose week three. How deep can you go losing weeks before it’s going to be a substantial season? We could change the playoff schedule in terms of the number of teams. It’s not about sliding the schedule, it’s about losing weeks. The Dome is important.”

Is there concern about having fans at the Prep Classic in December?

“By the time we get to the Prep Classic in the Superdome, the Saints will have played games there,” Bonine said. “The groundwork will have been laid as to how many people will be allowed in the Superdome. I don’t think our crowds will be what there will be for the Saints. Shortening the playoffs is a possibility. It could be reduced in the number of teams in the postseason.”

Bonine is a bit relieved that Louisiana has not gone backwards with its plans.

“When the governor made his proclamation to stay in Phase 2 for another 28 days which takes us to July 24, it was good and bad,” Bonine said. “I had heard from a pretty reliable source that we could toggle back to Phase 1. That was a concern. That obviously didn’t come to fruition. Phase 2, where it is right now, didn’t catch us off guard. It does change what we are trying to do philosophically. We’ve got to get to Phase 3 sooner, rather than late, or we’re in trouble.”

Dr. Greg Stewart of Tulane Sports Medicine spoke to the Executive Committee about what to expect and about the planning process for resuming athletics. The fear was that returning athletes and coaches to campus in groups too soon could have an impact on what would happen in future months.

“We did something in June that is apparently affecting July and now we’re 28 days from restarting the fall sports season on schedule,” Bonine said. “I think something that may have gotten lost in the governor’s presentation Monday was that he did state that potentially, all schools were going to start on time. That could be in August or as late as Sept. 8, the Monday after Labor Day. We will continue to move forward with a plan in place.

Bonine stressed going back to basics to try to win the battle against COVID-19 to get sports back to competing.

“We’ve just got to do what we need to do, to go back to masks, temperature checks, the sanitization, everything we were doing coming out of stay-at-home orders in Phase 1 to get us to Phase 2,” Bonine said. “We’ve got to go back to that. If we want high school sports in the fall, we need to take care of July and August to get there.”

Is there a contingency plan if the football season cannot start on time?

“We did talk about sliding the season but we will not do that,” Bonine said. “When camp begins with practices and preparing kids for contact and collision, it depends on the timeline. The further we go into July, scrimmages are in jeopardy, jamborees are in jeopardy. Potentially, week one, week two, week three of the season could be affected. We have contingency plans. It’s a wait-and-and see process. We can’t have a cover for everything.”

Another element to the game is officials and who can be at games.

“I was a Zoom meeting last week and they were talking about officials potentially not using whistles because of the blowing and the saliva that could come out of the whistle,” Bonine said. “I’ve said it before and I will say it again. If we can get teams on the field with officials and coaches and without fans, then that is my goal for football and volleyball to get playing again in competitive contests.”

What measures would be taken if a coach or athlete tests positive?

“Of our 64 parishes, we have over 20 that have now either modified, shut down or suspended summer participation because they’ve either had a coach, a sponsor and or an athlete or athletes who have tested positive for COVID,” Bonine said. “If an athlete is with a temperature, they send him home, they cannot return until they have a test done to determine whether they are positive or not. If the kid tests positive, the schools are responsible for addressing the contact tracing.”

Bonine said among those athletes who have been infected, many have come from traveling to play, including to other states.

“Right now, a lot of the schools that have become infected are athletes that they share with baseball and they’ve been doing travel baseball and been going to other states and playing in tournaments,” Bonine said. “They have come back and either they, their parents or someone got infected with where they were playing and came back and got the virus and brought it back and infected some of their teammates and not knowing or their parents got it.”

The other sport which starts at the start of the school year is volleyball.

“I heard Dr. Stewart address that today,” Bonine said. “There’s been talk about not only at the high school but the collegiate level that the net may look different than it has looked before. There may be something in the net that would prevent spit or sweat or stuff going through it. I haven’t seen anything about it. The balls being sanitized regularly. Social distancing on the benches. Wiping down the floors better with disinfectant.”

The executive committee also addressed the issue of allegations made against schools who may have violated the gathering rules during Phase 1, when only four were allowed to gather at any time.

A total of 18 reports of allegations were made in some fashion but the final number of those facing accusations is a maximum of three.

“Of the two there was going to be action taken, one of them came here today on appeal, the other one did not submit an appeal,” Bonine said. “I was given direction to take it back for review. The video evidence we had on a dress rehearsal, when we showed the videos once, when we went back to show them a second time, our camera went down and we weren’t able to continue the video. The video was an important piece of this for identification purposes in terms of who was at that workout, what coaches were at that specific workout, that video failed.”

There were actually three total as Bonine then stated that two schools have admitted violating the rule and the third is still going through the process, as mentioned.

With regard to the one school still facing an allegation, Bonine detailed what happens going forward.

“I made a suggestion that the committee allow me to work with that school and go back to making a complete, definite identification with verifications,” Bonine said. “We sent that 24 second video to them to review. We took no action against any schools today. One was there and we postponed that until we can view the video together.

Of the other 15 schools looked into, Bonine said that all have been cleared of any wrongdoing.

“There were other allegations made but none of them could be substantiated,” Bonine said. “There were no photos and videos.”

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