By Matt Noonan
We all know playing football during a pandemic is risky – there is a lot of concern from both coaches and players regarding safety, especially when it comes to tackling or crouching in front of an opposing offensive or defensive player.
So it should come as no surprise that 13 states, including Californa, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and Oregon have decided to not allow its high schoolers to play football this fall, according to a recent update from the National Federation Of State High Schools Association (NFHS). That number is expected to increase, not just this week, but over the next few weeks as more organizations unveil plans for allowing student-athletes to return to playing field either later this month, next month, or at some point this fall.
There are some states planning to play football this year, including Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Louisana, and Michigan – there are others, of course – while here in New England, it seems to be an unknown if and how the sport could be played safely.
As of this morning, all six New England states seem to have some plans in place for allowing fall sports teams to startup after Labor Day – here in Massachusetts, the plan would be to allow programs to return to the practice field on Monday, September 14, but that date could change due to a recent uptick in coronavirus (Covid-19) cases.
Three New England states – Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire – might be able to play high school football this fall, but all three seasons will be much shorter than usual.
Football in Rhode Island is a possibility – there is a schedule posted on the Rhode Island Interscholastic League (RIIL) website, but according to the organization’s Tumblr page, no decision will be made on fall sports until Monday, August 17.
Vermont’s Governor Phil Scott said fall sports would occur during last Friday’s press conference but what does that actually mean for the state’s football programs is an unknown. If football is allowed in Vermont, expect it to look a bit different than usual. Maybe we would see flag football or 7 on 7 contests?
While there is so much uncertainty surrounding fall sports, especially high school football, one must remember that the situation is fluid and plans could change, not just here in New England, but in other parts of the country. More announcements on high school football, as well as other fall sports should be coming this week – keep your eyes on Ohio where Governor Mike DeWine is supposed to make a decision about all athletic events, including high schools and youth sports.
Watching football on both Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons would certainly provide us all with a sense of normalcy, but as I mentioned during an op-ed piece on Friday, the thought of risking the health of not just student-athletes, coaches, team representatives, officials, parents, and community members is not worth it.