Less than 24 hours before State Superintendent Eric Mackey’s planned announcement regarding whether state schools will remain closed or reopen on and after April 6, Alabama High School Athletic Association Executive Director Steve Savarese wasn’t optimistic AHSAA sports would resume that day.
“I don’t expect we will go back on the 6th,” Savarese said in a Dothan Eagle interview Wednesday afternoon. “There may be a later day or in the summer, but I have no first-hand knowledge of that. That is just my gut feeling.”
Savarese and Mackey have been in constant contact with each other in the two weeks since the COVID-19 virus led to the Friday, March 13 state mandate of school closures to help stem the spread of the virus. At that time, Mackey and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued the mandate through April 6 and said they would reevaluate the status of school closures near that time.
High School sports in the state, as a by-product of the mandate, shut down its spring sports competition along with all practices and workouts of all sports at the conclusion of the day on March 17.
Mackey indicated earlier this week that he would make an announcement on the status of school closures this upcoming Monday, March 30, but on Wednesday he announced he would make it on Thursday. He and Ivey were scheduled to meet sometime Wednesday.
Savarese stressed he didn’t know what Mackey planned to say.
“We don’t know what he will say tomorrow,” Savarese said. “He might say we will come back on Monday. We are not sure.”
The AHSAA had been preparing for the update since the March 13 mandate, setting up several committee meetings next Tuesday and Wednesday to see where the association should go forward following the state’s upcoming recommendation.
The committees have been busy figuring out contingency plans since the shutdown, looking at different dates and possibilities of resuming sports.
“We have three committees that we formed to analyze whatever the data is,” Savarese said. “We have a spring sport contingency committee. We have a football contingency committee to go over what type of practice guidelines with them missing spring training and depending on what happens in the summer how we will do the sport of football. Then we have an overall committee of all the sports that will discuss summer practices and fall sports.”
Spring sports, most of which were a month or less into their seasons, are the most important matter right now. The AHSAA has spring sports in baseball, softball, girls and boys golf, girls and boys soccer, girls and boys tennis and girls and boys track and field.
State championship play for the spring sports are all scheduled to start in mid-or-late April, three to five weeks from now.
Savarese said if the state gives the go-ahead to resume on April 6 then there was a good chance championship play could occur for most sports, if not all.
“We would try to have as many spring championships as we could,” Savarese said of that scenario.
He, however, stressed schedules could be altered as athletes — for example baseball pitchers — would need time to re-condition themselves before actual games could be played.
If athletics were pushed back a couple of weeks to late April or early May, Savarese believes sports would be able to resume, but would likely not have championship play because of proximity to the summer.
“When we discussed it with our contingency committee that if we came back let’s say around May 1 or April 24 and didn’t have any time for playoffs that they would prefer to allow the kids to just play with no championships — just get them back on the field,” Savarese said.
The AHSAA executive director said getting the student-athletes back on the playing field and enjoying the sport they love was a goal.
“If we could just let them play again for a month, that would be great,” Savarese said.
Savarese said he wasn’t sure how things will unfold overall, but believes Mackey’s announcement might be a starting point.
“Once we know what our parameters are, then we will establish from that point,” Savarese said.
While disappointed that athletic competitions were halted in the first place, Savarese said he was glad most spring athletes got the opportunity to play some before the state mandate and that the basketball and wrestling championships were concluded. Several states, especially up north, were still conducting their winter sports when the COVID-19 virus hit and forced things to a halt.
“We are not like many states where winter sports did not have championships and they didn’t even start spring sports,” Savarese said. “If you look at the baseball records — I was looking at it yesterday — we have some teams that played 20 dates already, so a lot of our teams got in 40 to 50 percent of their games. The one positive is they didn’t miss their entire season.”
Whatever action is taken by the state, Savarese said the AHSAA will be in full support.
“Whatever is announced, we will work together to make certain everybody remains healthy and that we will help eradicate this disease and try to get a sense of normalcy back in our lives,” Savarese said.
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