By D. Mark Mitchell


The Alabama High School Athletic Association held a press conference last Thursday, announcing their plan for “Return to play for Fall Sports”. Executive Director Steve Savarese and Assistant Deniss Ainsworth spoke for 45 minutes to explain the plan.

The association released an 11-page document outlining best practices for return to play for fall sports like football, volleyball, cross country and swimming.

The best practices manual includes education, communication, contracts, contests, contingency plans for Fall Sports Championship Play, facilities, ticketing, NFHS Network, transportation, locker rooms, game day and event management, auxiliary participants, best practices for officials, disclaimer and frequently asked questions. The AHSAA released new rule modifications for each of the four fall sports.


Local schools will determine how many fans will be able to attend home games. Savarese encouraged all schools to partner with GOFAN.CO for online ticket sales.

Schools will be able to control the amount of tickets that are sold for home and visiting fans. He also encouraged all administrators to offer tickets to parents of football players, members of the band, cheerleaders and other performing groups.

Only essential team personnel should be on the sidelines. Credentialed media should remain in the end zone unless the school supplied a designated area. This will cut down on the number of people on the sidelines.

Players will be able to wear cloth face coverings and plastic shields covering their entire face should not be allowed unless integrated into the face mask, attached to the helmet with no tint. Gloves can be worn by players if they are NOCSAE approved. Timeouts will be increased to two minutes at the end of each period and after a field goal and prior to kickoffs.

Team boxes will be extended from the 10-yard line to 10-yard line, coaches must stay inside the original box running between each 25 yard line. No equipment will be shared, towels, apparel or water. Game officials will use electronic whistles and wear face coverings. Only one captain will be allowed to participate in the toss of the coin. No pre or post game handshakes. Teams will wave from the sideline in a show of respect.


The prematch conference will contain one coach from each team and will be held at center court. Teams will not switch benches and will be spread out to meet social distancing guidelines. The officials table will be limited to home scorer, libero tracer and timer sitting 3 to 6 feet apart. A visiting team scorer is not considered essential. Cloth face coverings are permissible.


The cross country course should be widened to at least 6 feet. All shared touched surfaces and exercise equipment should be cleaned. There will be no hugging, shaking hands or fist bumps for support or encouragement. Meets should consider using staggered, wave or interval starts.

Students should wear their own appropriate workout clothing and individual clothing/towels should be washed and cleaned after every workout immediately upon returning home. Students should use individual water bottles, hand sanitizer and not share equipment.


The 2020-21 Swimming and Diving Rule Modifications involve NFHS Swimming and Diving Rules offered a document for state association to consider whether any possible rules could be altered for the 2020-21 season. The most significant measure that will be taken is that athletes will arrive at their meets dressed to compete instead of changing at the venue.

You can find the Pan to Return to Play online at


Opelika will not open with Calloway High on the road. The GHSAA voted to move the season back two weeks, eliminating the chance for the game.

Central High in Phenix City lost an opening opponent due to the change in Georgia.

OHS head coach Erik Speakman confirmed that the two schools are looking at changing the date of their game. It is a possibility Opelika will travel to Phenix City Aug. 21 to play the Red Devils at Garrett-Harrelson Stadium on Wayne Tawick Field. The game is scheduled for Sept. 25 at Bulldog Stadium.

If the game and/or venue is changed, the two teams will split the gate 50/50 after game expenses. Garrett-Harrelson Stadium is larger which allows for more people to attend.

Opelika has not released the number of fans that will be allowed in Bulldog Stadium for a football game.

Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks.


Last week, FOX Sports the Game 910-1310, teamed up with The Orthopaedic Clinic for the third annual “High School Media Days” at the Event Center Bottling Plant.

The two day event featured 18 High School’s head coaches and players and was covered by WTVM, WRLB, WXTX, WSFA, Opelika Observer, IHeartMedia,, Opelika -Auburn News, Alex City Outlook, Columbus Enquirer, Valley Times and several social media sites. Both days were aired LIVE on FOX Sports the Game 910-1310.

Alabama High School Athletics Association Executive Director Steve Savarese kicked off Media days Tuesday morning. Savarese discussed the Central Board of Control’s Board Meeting the next day. The Central Board of Control approved the AHSAA plan to Return to Play for Fall 2020.

As a part of IHeartMedia and FOX Sports the Game 910-1310, I want to thank The Orthopaedic Clinic for continuing to support high school athletics. Other Sponsors of the event include JeffCoat Trant Funeral Home and Crematory, Auburn Bank, Economy Heating and Air, Butcher Paper Bar BQ and Frederick-Dean Funeral Home.

The 2020 FOX Sports the Game High School Media Days presented by Orthopaedic Clinic can be viewed online at Foxsports the Game or YouTube.

D. Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State Director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.