The Mississippi High School Activities Association Executive Committee voted Tuesday to delay the Fall sports calendar two weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Practice for football can begin Aug. 17 with games starting Sept. 4. Scrimmages between schools are allowed beginning Aug. 28. The football playoff and championship dates are unchanged. Football 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.
Practice for cross country, swimming and volleyball can begin Aug. 10 with competition among schools permitted starting Aug. 24. Notably, any games or meets lost due to the delayed start of the season can be rescheduled with permission from both school administrations.
“We’ve been in contact with officials from the Governor’s office and the Mississippi Department of Education,” Hinton said. “We’ve talked with sports administrators from Mississippi universities and community colleges as well as leaders from the National Federation (NFHS) 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.”
Hinton had said that flipping the fall and spring sports season would have created too many logistical challenges.
“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,” Hinton said. “But those changes would create an entirely different set of challenges and logistical issues, including an overlap with athletes, coaches and game officials.
“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 cancelled 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.”
The MHSAA will later release health guidelines for each sport to follow as well as guidelines for fans.