Louisiana High School Athletic Association Executive Director Eddie Bonine elaborated on Monday’s presentation to the House Education Committee in an interview with The News that closely mirrored his testimony during a special meeting of the state’s Board of Secondary and Elementary Education on Tuesday.
During Monday’s presentation, Bonine said football would not be played until the state reached Phase 4 of reopening. On Tuesday, Bonine said he was referring to the LHSAA’s timeline for Phase 4, which, in its simplest terms, means getting past the LHSAA’s Phase 3.
He also said the LHSAA’s phases for the return to sports aren’t the same as state and federal phases for the reopening of states amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and getting to the LHSAA’s Phase 4 doesn’t mean there needs to be a vaccine for COVID-19 in order to proceed with football.
“For us, it just means that we can potentially … start playing contact football and figure that piece out, and that might mean social distancing on the sidelines from goal line to goal line,” Bonine said Tuesday before BESE’s special meeting. “It could mean a lot of different things, and we’re not there yet, nor am I the expert on that, but I think you know … we’re not making these decisions unilaterally.”
The state is currently in Phase 2 of its reopening, and Bonine noted differences in the reopening plans for the state and the LHSAA at this point, with the LHSAA’s guidelines, which were released last month before the start of summer workouts, allowing for static groups of 25 people. The state’s Phase 2 allows for groups of 50.
Under the LHSAA’s guidelines, a static group of 50 is allowed in Phase 3. Bonine said getting into the LHSAA’s Phase 3 would allow football teams to don helmets and pads and work with tackling dummies and hand shields without hitting each other.
“To do so, we need to see 14 to 21 days of trajectory going downward in the number of cases, hospitalizations and all the numbers that are being thrown at us, for 14 days,” Bonine said. “In most cases, as you know, the governor does it 21 days … we’re working lockstep with them in that regard, but the document we have stops at Phase 3. But in Phase 3, football is still a high risk and we’re a static group of 50, so there’s no way we can start football until we get to – this is just semantics – post-Phase 3. I said Phase 4 in my testimony because progressively it’s the next phase. People lost their minds because they thought, ‘well, the governor doesn’t have a Phase 4. Washington, D.C. doesn’t have a Phase 4.’”
The state is currently in Phase 2 until July 24, and Bonine said all decisions that have been made and will be made regarding sports are being done in consultation with the Department of Education, the Louisiana Department of Health, state school superintendents, principals and school boards as well as State Education Superintendent Dr. Cade Brumley.
“It’s July 14,” Bonine said regarding football. “The SEC can wait until the end of July (to make a decision on its football season), so can we, but I truly believe the governor’s address on the 20th and what’s implemented on the 25th will have a bearing on what the LHSAA does.”
Bonine, however, said the biggest step in the process is getting past the state’s Phase Two, which was extended for 28 days by Gov. John Bel Edwards last month.
“Whatever we did to get out of Phase One to get to Phase 2 … the citizens of the state need to do the same thing again for us so we can statewide get out of Phase 2 to get us to Phase 3, so potentially (the) LHSAA can toggle to Phase 3 and then we can potentially have volleyball interscholastic competition, swimming interscholastic competition, what we can do with soccer, and all this stuff accordingly,” Bonine said. “That’s kind of where we are at this point.”