Making sense of pandemic football policies in New Orleans while applying common sense

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Tad Gormley

So here we are, with 63 of 64 parishes in Louisiana ready, set and now going on a trip down the road to playing prep football in 2020.

We all know the one holdout.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell was adamant in stating that the city remains in Phase Two on Thursday, despite Gov. John Bel Edwards declaring just hours earlier that the state is going to Phase Three as of Friday.

In Phase Two, based on federal guidelines, there is no contact allowed. (The LHSAA executive committee voted earlier this week to separate its schedule from the phases.)

No contact in tackle football is a no-go, a non-starter. Simply put, no team can play a game if it cannot practice sufficiently.

As I have maintained and stated continuously, let us not make legitimate concerns for high school athletics about politics.

We should all be about making logical decisions, reaching sound conclusions for the benefit of the vast majority, if not all of the citizenry involved in high school sports.

In the process, we should remain respectful of all points of view and of all elected officials, regardless of political affiliation while striving to keep student-athletes safe by making sound decisions about competition.

Of course, that does not mean that we should not strenuously agree or vehemently disagree with those in office making decisions.

It is fully understood that fine, intelligent people will reach differing conclusions and disagree on individual subjects. That is expected and it is good, the basis of the republic we live in. Sound debate producing rational implementation of policies will always supersede emotional, knee-jerk reactions producing unwise policy.

Louisiana, as with the rest of the United States, has been in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic since March – right at six months to the day.

You can go back even further to when we all learned about the plague, its idiosyncrasies, the cause-and-effect nature of how is transmitted and how to deal with it.

When it comes to safety and transmission issues in New Orleans, there are legitimate concerns with schools about opening in Orleans Parish and with thousands of evacuees from the damage of Hurricane Laura to southwest Louisiana. The fact that people gathered in masses for Labor Day are a concern but isn’t that true in every city in the state?

The claim that Mayor Cantrell did not know about or was unaware that Tulane had been practicing for a month was curious. The fact that Tulane plays a home game on Sept. 19 at Yulman Stadium is perhaps more curious.

Tulane put out a tweet Thursday evening, clearly stating that they had met with city officials regarding protocol for home games.

Tulane is reported on daily by many media outlets, including here at Crescent City Sports, offering regular updates which are seen by the masses, but apparently were not seen by the top city official or any of her pertinent advisors.

As a follow up today, Mayor Cantrell stated that Tulane is cleared to practice and play.

With regard to safety issues, Dr. Greg Stewart, who is nationally renowned and universally respected, someone those of us in the media have known for several years, has overseen the medical aspect of the safe return to play for not just Tulane but for the entire American Athletic Conference, which spans nine states in football, as well as for the LHSAA.

With regard to the LHSAA and safety standards, perhaps those involved in Orleans Parish should be made aware that its schools, as well as schools in all other 63 parishes in Louisiana, have been holding workouts, weightlifting and meeting for several months now as permitted under the respective Phase orders the state has been in and in conjunction with the LHSAA.

In addition, the LHSAA and LHSCA (Coaches Association) responded to the comment by Mayor Cantrell that she has seen no guidelines for operating safety.

As it pertains to guidelines for staging games, as the LHSAA and its Executive Committee have laid out, the respective schools are responsible for their game operation, including safety measures.

As mentioned, those same schools have been providing safety measures to the extreme for months now on campus so they are patently aware of what would have to occur at games.

The agreement between schools would be administered by the home team, which is already occurring with volleyball, which began earlier this week.

Clearly, those measures would include the size of the crowd, set at 25 percent capacity for football, by Governor Edwards Friday, social distancing when possible, sanitation, masks and even temperature checks.

Coaches will dictate the makeup of their respective sidelines, which will include as much distancing as possible.

A year ago, Karr and Warren Easton squared off for the Class 4A state championship in the Superdome. Now, both face the prospect of not playing and both schools vigorously have expressed wanting to play in 2020.

For that matter, if the policy does not change from the city, the plan to play all nine state championship games in the Superdome Dec. 26-28 is in question.

It is also a fact that college football has now been played for a couple of weeks in mostly successful fashion, though an outbreak was reported by Memphis today as the latest issue. Louisiana Tech previously postponed its game with Baylor over virus concerns.

It is also a fact that high school football has now been played in many other states already with no apparent issues.

From a pure numbers standpoint, Jefferson Parish has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Louisiana but the parish has no issue, whatsoever, in moving forward with allowing prep football to have full contact, followed by a scrimmage the final week of September and games beginning the weekend of Oct. 1-3.

To have a task force study the issues, the data, as we hear so frequently, over a period of a few weeks is intriguing.

The season starts in three weeks. Is there really time enough for a task force?

Orleans Parish schools, who play other schools outside of the parish, are at a distinct disadvantage to their opponents, and, in some cases, to fellow district members, in many instances.

Some have already made arrangements to play outside of the parish, if allowed and if necessary.

Is a clear standard going to be applied to Orleans Parish public schools as compared to private institutions, which govern themselves and raise their own monies or will the private schools be free to perhaps practice and definitely play outside of their home facilities in New Orleans?

If schools want to play outside of Orleans Parish, what about preparation? The Phase 2 “no contact” rules will make it extremely difficult to prepare properly to play a game.

The New Orleans Saints begin playing in New Orleans this Sunday and they have staged a few practices in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, in Orleans Parish. Of course, they are “exempt.”

Of course, the Saints had previously announced that they will have no fans at their season opener with Tampa Bay Sunday.

Now, Mayor Cantrell has stated that the Saints cannot have fans for their second home game with Green Bay on Sept. 27, this, after the Saints previously announced that fans would be allowed at the contest, per an agreement between Governor Edwards and Cantrell.

Now, she has reversed field, punting on the idea, kicking the can of fans down the road.

What has changed in nine days?

It is genuine when I state that I pray for our leaders, locally, statewide and nationally. They have tough jobs and difficult decisions to make daily which will always be confronted, contested and criticized.

It is part of the job.

Gov. Edwards made what he called one of the toughest decisions he has had to make as governor. He did it with concern for all and with the greater good in mind.

All other of the 63 parishes in Louisiana appear to be following the lead of the state leader and federal guidelines.

With this being a sports story and topic and with the U.S. Open winding down in New York, it is appropriate to state the ball lies squarely in the court of Orleans Parish and its city leader.

To reach that conclusion requires no data. It requires no exemption. It is simply a task that she is forced to deal with, and soon.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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