Breaking the huddle

High school football is a go. The KHSAA voted Tuesday to move ahead with fall sports. Barring any additional concessions to COVID-19, the first gridiron games will be Friday, Sept. 11.

Fluid. Tentative. New normal. All the buzzwords that have become part of our lives the past five months were used, but after Tuesday's three-hour, marathon meeting of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Board of Control, you can add another catch phrase.

Let the games begin.

The board voted to approve the full-fledged start of practice for football, soccer, volleyball, cross country and field hockey on Aug. 24, with the first games permitted the week of Sept. 7.

“Our board strongly believes in the tremendous psychological advantages formed through the relationships between our student-athletes and their school coaches and school personnel, as well as the strong community values surrounding interscholastic, education-based athletics,” KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett said. 

“College and professional sports are great, but our unique opportunity to build relationships with our neighbors within one state is not one we take for granted.”

As has been the case since high school sports screeched to a halt due to COVID-19 on March 12, the commissioner cautioned that all future steps with follow the guidance of Gov. Andy Beshear and other public health officials.

But for now, sports are back with a few modifications.

Football's regular season will shrink from 11 weeks (including room for a bye) to nine. Its playoffs are pushed back one week, with state championship games played the weekend of Dec. 11-12.

Two other measures were adopted as part of the ongoing battle with coronavirus.

Teams will be limited to the number of players that may dress for a game: 60 for football, 24 for soccer and field hockey, 15 for volleyball, and 10 for cross country. That is intended to minimize the crowd on the bench and sideline.

Also, travel will be temporarily restricted, with Kentucky teams allowed to play against only other Kentucky teams or teams from neighboring states whose county shares a border with Kentucky.

Tackett said the board felt that students would be safer competing under the auspices of the KHSAA than if other adults stepped in to try to fill the void.

“In the coming weeks, we will continue to push for the citizens of our state to come together and drive down our data points to where everyone is more comfortable going forward throughout the school year in partnership with our schools,” Tackett added.

“It is very easy and shows visible support for interscholastic athletics by adhering to the three public health obligations — always wear a mask or face covering, social distance as recommended, and proper handwashing.” 

Teams will be allowed to continue conditioning workouts in small groups (10 or fewer) up to six hours per week until Aug. 24.

That allotted time will increase to 7½ per week after the start date.

High school golf has started on time due to its inherent social distancing and limited contact. The first regular-season matches are set for Friday.

The board is scheduled to meet once more on Aug. 20 before sports go live.

Kal Oakes can be reached via email at sports@news-graphic.com.

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