By D. Mark Mitchell
The sports world was busy last week, from Alabama High School athletics, college football, baseball and the NBA.
The SEC decided to play a ten-game conference-only schedule. Playing all conference games has been a favorite for many fans. Folks get tired of watching “gimme games” (a phrase Coach Gene Stallings uses to reference games against sub-par talent) when teams could play other teams in-conference. The SEC will start playing games September 22. No university has released a statement on how many fans will be able to attend games in person.
While college football teams work out their plans, Alabama High Schools are trying to nail down a plan for the upcoming season. A few school systems have decided to not play sports in the Fall, including Barbour County High School, Greene County and Sumter County. Two high schools in north Alabama, Muscle Shoals and Boaz, opted to delay sports two weeks, which means the two will not play a football game prior to Sept. 1. The schools’ decision did not affect cross country or volleyball.
Opelika’s football schedule appears to be set, unless the Auburn game is moved to Aug. 21. Auburn High School Head Football Coach and Director of Operations, Adam Winegarden, confirmed the two schools talked but as of press time no change has been made.
The Bulldogs schedule includes:
Auburn on Aug. 28 at Duck Samford
Lanier Sept. 4
Eufaula Sept. 11
Carver at Bulldog Stadium Sept. 18
Central Sept. 25
Russell County Oct. 2
Robert E Lee Oct. 9
Valley Oct. 16
and close the regular season Oct. 23.
Games against Carver and Lee will be played at Crampton Bowl.
I obtained a memo, written by two high school football coaches, asking fellow coaches if they thought the start of high school football should be delayed. The coaches, neither of whom are in Lee County, were concerned about several things pertaining to the coronavirus.
The coaches are concerned about kids not being tested and having the virus without knowing. These kids will return to parents and grandparents who could catch the virus and become sick. The two head coaches have seen the effects of the coronavirus personally and through a friend.
Based on conversations with multiple coaches across Alabama, I can confirm the memo was sent to numerous head football coaches. I debated mentioning the memo, but felt it was important to share because of their concerns.
I conducted my own poll by asking 27 high school football coaches if they thought moving forward with football is the right decision. All 27 head football coaches agreed with the Alabama High School Athletic Association plan to play games beginning Aug. 20-21. The coaches were all concerned about the coronavirus but felt it was best to return.
This is an example of how some coaches feel; neither group is right or wrong. They all care about kids but have differing opinions.
For now, high school athletics are moving forward. I pray God will watch over all and help the medical field find a cure so we can get back to some type of normalcy.
D. Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State Director and vice president of the A-O Sports Council.