By Wil Crews
High School Football Media Days took place in Opelika last week and the Alabama Independent School Association (AISA) Director Roddie Beck reflected on last year and provided an update on plans for 2021 fall sports.
“We are looking forward to another great year, another great fall,” Beck said. “The way things are going today, everything is ramping up a little bit but we are planning on going as normal at this time.”
Before taking questions from media, Beck took time to reflect on a challenging, yet successful 2020-21 sports calendar.
“All I can say is, we made it,” Beck said. “It was unbelievable the things that our student athletes, administrators and schools had to go through. Along the way, we hit a few bumps in the road, but we made it – and we crowned a champion in all of our sports.”
Beck said the worst thing about last year was the uncertainty of how to handle the pandemic, however, he and his staff feel more confident handling virus-related issues now.
“The good thing about this is, we have gone through this,” he said. “We will listen to the CDC, Dr. Harris and the Alabama Department of Health. We will follow those guidelines, and we will get that information to our schools. Obviously, if Governor Ivey has another mandate, then we will follow that as well.”
Looking toward the upcoming football season, Beck announced that the AISA championship triple header will once again be held at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery. Since 2000, the event has typically been held at Troy University’s stadium. However, due to COVID-19, the event was moved to Montgomery last year, and will be held there again in November 2021.
“We have had a great relationship with Troy University,” Beck said. “At this time it’s just a move due to the COVID situation that we are dealing with.”
With this in mind, Beck did not close the door on the idea of more championship events taking place at Cramton Bowl in the future, but “at this point and time, our plans are to be back at Troy,” he said.
The AISA Championship triple header is scheduled for Nov. 19, with the Class A game beginning at noon, the Class AA game at 3:30 p.m. and the Class AAA game beginning at 7 p.m.
Another topic that Beck addressed in his press conference was the integration of girls’ flag football as an officially sanctioned high school sport in Alabama. While the AHSAA has already done this and seen a good response from school’s in its bigger classifications, Beck said there are complications to introducing the sport into the AISA.
“At this time, it’s on the backburner,” he said. “We would love to provide another sport for our females, but a lot of schools, a lot of our numbers are so small, that being a fall sport, you’re cutting into your volleyball program, your cross country program and your cheerleaders. We do not have many schools that would be able to do it.”
Beck discussed the possibility of adding eight-man football to the AISA’s repertoire, too, saying “it could be a possibility down the road.” And, additionally, he touched on the referee shortage that is currently plaguing the association.
“We’re advertising,” Beck said. “And the sad thing about it, you’re not getting a whole lot of response. We don’t have any young ones [referees] to do it. So training is very important. They are trying to learn and we need them as we move down the line.”
A number of AISA member schools were in attendance at Media Days on Tuesday and Wednesday. Practice ramps up this week. Their seasons are approaching rapidly. Overall, Beck is focused on delivering to them, yet another successful season in 2021.
“We are in it to please our student athletes,” Beck said. “Hopefully we will continue to keep moving forward.”