Here in Arizona, it seems the state is taking a one step forward, two steps back as COVID-19 cases continue to balloon – further clouding not only the remainder of summer high school football workouts but the entire 2020 season, as well.
“The challenge is we just don’t know what the future holds,” AIA Executive Director David Hines said to Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat in a phone interview Monday morning in regards to the fall sports season. “We may have plans set in place to begin on time but once we get close to that time, there may be some direction from the governor, from the local CDC…that make us…have to look at some alternative at that point.”
Hines said that if schools resume classes in the fall, they will plan on having athletic teams, while taking precautions and “doing things differently.”
As football workouts started at many programs last week, those changes have already been put into effect – most notably small group sessions, social distancing and frequently disinfecting all equipment used.
He expressed the AIA also has options in place should the school year’s return get pushed back due to the pandemic, as well as the flexibility if they get halfway through the fall sports calendar and everything is shut down like we saw in March. However, the AIA would not consider pushing the fall sports season, specifically football, back to start in early January because, according to Hines, many student-athletes at lower division schools play multiple sports and several coaches also coach multiple sports. Ideally, the AIA would not ask these athletes to choose one sport or the other.
As expected, there have been several standout football players who have transferred into Arizona schools this off-season from states who may not play this season at all.
The AIA has clear guidelines as to when these players will be eligible to play at their new school.
“We have transfer [rules] in place,” Hines explained. “Those will depend, based on the situation…if their family picks up and moves their entire family here and it’s their first time enrolling in Arizona, they would be eligible [immediately]. If they are not coming with their family, we have different protocols in place where they would have to sit like any other transfer – half the year.”
According to Hines, it is up to the school – not the AIA, to do a background check on the family and that particular situation. Ultimately, each school’s athletic director will be responsible to determine an out-of-state transfer’s eligibility.
For now, Hines and his staff are preparing for fall sports – which may be tricky due to a number of different variables in play due to the pandemic.
“We are a very diverse state, very large,” he said. “We have kids all over and different communities are [impacted] differently. So we have some parts of our state that could be one month, two months, three months behind other parts of the state in opening up. So, that’s a challenge.”
As with the first half of 2020, no one can honesty predict what the back half of the calendar has in store, including the AIA.
For now, it’s just wait and see.