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GHSA holding firm with football start date; softball playoff schedule altered

Executive director Robin Hines announced Wednesday that the Georgia High School Association will be “moving forward with the September 4 date for the opening of the 2020 football season.” The announcement came following Wednesday’s regular meeting with the Sports Medicine Advisory Council. Although GHSA has canceled all preseason scrimmages between schools, it appears the regular season will begin on its new, delayed date. Following the SMAC meeting, Hines spoke with The Athens Banner-Herald and acknowledged the high number of COVID-19 cases in Georgia but remained confident the season could countinue with the starting date (Sept. 4) directed by the GHSA Board of Trustees. “While the numbers aren’t what we would prefer right now, they’re trending down,” Hines told the Banner-Herald. “We feel good about that, and pending some spikes between now and then, my recommendation is going to be that we go ahead and play.” The GHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) is comprised of a wide variety of healthcare professionals including physicians, athletic trainers, nurses, and EMS personnel along with school administrators and game officials.

The SMAC has been meeting virtually with the leadership at the GHSA office on a weekly basis for the past few months due to the COVID-19 threat. The committee — comprised of about 15 people — uses the latest data from the Center for Disease Control and guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health, along with other sources with the latest research, to help determine next steps for GHSA. Jeff Hopp, Marietta City Schools director of sports medicine explained his biggest concerns about playing football in this pandemic to Georgia High School Football Daily. “Being realistic, every school in the state is going to be impacted at some point if they haven’t already. My biggest concern is whether we can do enough to mitigate the risks of COVID to make football and the other fall sports safe. That goes beyond just the athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and other team staff — to game-day staff, game officials, and spectators. It also includes the families of everyone involved as well. Although we will not be able to eliminate every risk, if everyone is willing to do their part to ensure it is as safe as possible, I do believe fall sports can continue.”

Alabama and Tennessee will kick off their high school seasons tonight with a total of 30 games across the two neighboring states. Both states have more than 150 season openers scheduled for Friday.

Arkansas, Florida, and Mississippi — along with Georgia — will begin next week.

GHSFD reported on Tuesday that there are 68 Georgia football teams of 425 total that are not likely playing the first week of the season because of COVID concerns dictated by their school district or private schools.

The list of teams down for the week of September 4 include 19 in DeKalb County, 16 in Fulton County, eight in Savannah-Chatham, and six in Bibb. Newton, Dougherty, and Rockdale counties have three schools down each and their are others scattered across the state as well.

In other related news, the state playoffs for fast pitch softball were altered slightly by the GHSA office. The final playing date for softball has been moved to Friday, October 16 in an effort to provide regions an extended period to best complete their schedules. The state playoffs will begin October 19 with the Final Four portion of the playoffs October 30-31 for all classifications.


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