We’ve seen it at every single level over the past few months. Whether it has anything to do with sports or not, every decision continues to get passed on from one governing body to the next because no one wants to step in and make a bold decision one way or the other.
Unfortunately, the lack of any true decisions being made has put us in a worse situation with COVID-19 than we were in three months ago. Some of it does make sense due to learning more about the virus and every decision and situation is going to come with some changes in the current environment but too many of those decisions have been passed down to the next person on the list and now we are in a situation in which school boards will be labeled as the bad guys if they decide having high school sports is too dangerous this fall.
The Alabama High School Athletics Association is a governing body created to control the athletic programs of member schools throughout the state. On its website, the AHSAA uses the words regulate, coordinate and promote to describe its role in high school sports.
Over the past two months, we have seen very little efforts to regulate or coordinate any precise efforts to limit the risk of the coronavirus among athletes and coaches. To its credit, we have seen plenty of suggestions from the AHSAA over the last two months but those don’t do much good when it’s not implemented and enforced everywhere.
Several different schools across the state dealt with athletes testing positive for the virus over the summer but it seemed like every program handled it in a different way. Some shut down immediately for a few days; some took the two-week period; and some even made sure they saw a negative test result before returning to the field. But no matter how it was dealt with, it was all on the schools because there were no guidelines from the state’s governing body on how to handle a positive test within the program.
Based of the latest release from the AHSAA, we’re going to be seeing a lot more inconsistencies on how schools are dealing with a return to sports in three weeks. We saw some small changes were made to try to control environments at sporting events a little bit better but it seems obvious the rule changes made will not do much to mitigate any risk of exposure to COVID-19.
It was once again the suggestions about crowd limitations, face coverings, seating charts and so many other things that would truly help fight against the spread if they were forced to be used at every member school. That doesn’t appear like it’s going to be happening anytime soon though because the AHSAA isn’t requiring all its member schools enforce those guidelines.
The AHSAA has to go out and accept its role as a governing body, not just when it’s convenient for it but when difficult decisions need to be made. Of course, this extends well beyond the AHSAA too because it’s hard to blame it for not making the tough decisions when we see every governing body doing the same thing right now.
All summer, coaches have been saying as long as the AHSAA allows them to play, they’re going to play. The AHSAA has said as long as the Alabama State Department of Education and the governor’s office allow sports to be played, they will allow it. We’re seeing the same thing at the college level where the NCAA has yet to lay down any major decisions about the football season, leaving it up to conferences and schools to make their own decisions so they have no liability in whatever comes next.
We have already seen sports succeed during this time in a super-controlled environment with a lot of rules but we have also seen the negatives of not being in the bubble with the MLB already facing some major questions after opening weekend.
High school sports is impossible to put into a bubble and it may be difficult to control but the AHSAA had the opportunity to do more to control the environment while still providing the chance for kids to play sports. Instead of governing, it passed the torch and now we all will have to live with the potential consequences.