Start of fall football delayed by two weeks; first games Sept. 4

By SPECIAL TO THE SUN-SENTINEL,

The Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Executive Committee voted Tuesday to delay the fall sports calendar two weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Practice for cross-country, swimming and volleyball can begin Aug. 10 with competition among schools permitted starting Aug. 24.

Practice for football can begin Aug. 17. Scrimmages between schools are allowed beginning Aug. 28, with games starting Sept. 4. The football playoff and championship dates are unchanged. Games scheduled for the first two weeks of the season will not be made up.

“The board felt these changes will give all of us more time to try to get back into the routine of school,” MHSAA Executive Committee President Kalvin Robinson said. “There are going to be many challenges — ones we’re anticipating and those we don’t even know about yet — in returning to on-campus learning. It’s going to be different than what we’ve experienced in the past. Hopefully pushing back the start of the Fall sports seasons will help make that transition a little smoother for everyone involved.”

MHSAA Executive Director Don Hinton supports the two-week delay as well as the board’s reasoning behind it.

“We believe this is the right decision at the right time,” Hinton said. “As we’ve said since last spring, this is an unprecedented and rapidly changing situation where new information can and will alter plans and schedules at any time.

“We’ve been in contact with officials from the Governor’s Office and the Mississippi Department of Education. We’ve talked with sports administrators from Mississippi universities and community colleges as well as leaders from the National Federation [of State High School Associations]) and our neighboring state associations. All of us are looking for the best way to navigate these challenges and obstacles, but each us has our own challenges," added Hinton.

“For example, there’s been talk about the MHSAA flipping the fall and spring sports seasons or just moving fall sports — and specifically football — to the spring. But those changes would create an entirely different set of challenges and logistical issues, including an overlap with athletes, coaches and game officials," Hinton continued. "As far as swapping the fall and spring seasons, we’ve heard from many coaches and administrators who feel it would be unfair to ask the coaches and sports canceled in April to turn around and play with all the challenges we’ll be facing this fall.”

Despite those challenges, Hinton said the MHSAA will continue to make every effort to keep sanctioned sports and activities in place for the 2020-21 school year.

“We know how important these extracurricular activities are to the students, parents, families, schools and communities of our state,” Hinton said. “We’re staying optimistic and doing everything we can to move forward for the upcoming school year. We’re listening to and relying on the medical experts, government officials and school administrators who are working to manage this situation. This is something none of us has experienced before.”

Key football decisions made Tuesday:

» No change to playoff dates

» Class 1A, 5A and 6A will play 10 games

» Class 2A, 3A and 4A will play 9 games

Schedule for football:

Aug. 17: Practice begins

Aug. 19: Shells

Aug. 24: Full gear

Aug. 28: Scrimmage (two teams, no jamboree; can be varsity and JV)

Sept. 4: 1st game

Oct. 30: Last game (2A, 3A, 4A)

Nov. 6: 1st round playoffs (2A, 3A, 4A) and last game (1A, 5A, 6A)

Nov. 13: 1st round playoffs (1A, 5A, 6A) and 2nd round playoffs (2A, 3A, 4A)

Nov. 20: 2nd round playoffs (1A, 5A, 6A) and 3rd round playoffs (2A, 3A, 4A)

Nov. 27: North State/South State (1A, 5A, 6A) and North State/South State (2A, 3A, 4A)

Dec. 4: State championship games

Dec. 5: State championship games

Other fall sports considerations:

Swim, volleyball and cross-country will start Aug. 10 with first meet/match on Aug. 24. Any meet/match lost due to delayed start can be rescheduled with permission from both school administrations. Postseason events remain the same at this time.

Junior high/junior varsity will not play until the week of high school game/meet.