No more high school sports will be played this season.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association Executive Committee announced Thursday morning it approved the cancellation the spring sports seasons and championships as well as remaining winter sports championships in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Schools are closed statewide through April 30 as a result of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ stay at home proclamation.
“It was kind getting to a point where the LHSAA wouldn’t be able to continue with athletics as we moved forward,” Springfield principal Spencer Harris, who is also a member of the LHSAA’s Executive Committee, said. “It’s really sad for the senior kids, and that’s something that was really weighed in and we tried to wait as long as we could to make it, but unfortunately that decision was made.”
Harris said several factors went into the decision to end the sports season, and the first was safety.
“None of us knew what to expect with the process,” Harris said. “We’re learning and looking at it that ultimately it really came down to the safety … Not putting people in situations where they can contract this. I personally think it would be kind of irresponsible to say, ‘hey, let’s try to go play athletic events’, when right now people can’t hardly do anything. That’s kind of where we were at.”
The timeline of finishing end-of-the year courses and possibly having graduations also figured into the process.
“Unfortunately, trying to schedule athletics and state events just wasn’t going to be able to be done,” Harris said. “Right now in our state, having playoff events where you’re bringing people from multiple areas, I think that was going to be too much of an issue.”
Another aspect Harris said the committee had to consider was changing venues for state championship events. LSU was unable to host the state meet for track and field after the Southeastern Conference cancelled its spring sports season last month.
“That’s part of it too,” Harris said. “All these different places where you have events, nobody’s wanting to host something. It’s hard. Deep down, as a coach, that’s where I started in athletics and things, you always want to try to give your kids a chance to play.”
The LHSAA’s letter notes that the Louisiana Association of State Superintendents submitted a letter to Gov. Edwards on Wednesday requesting schools remain closed the rest of the school year.
“I think the LHSAA did everything they could to try and salvage something for our spring sport athletes, and I think this is precursor to us possibly not returning to school for the remainder of the year,” Albany girls basketball coach and athletic director Stacy Darouse said. “It’s so sad for all of the athletes and coaches involved, but the seniors, it’s been a hard, hard road for them. For every one athlete who gets a chance to go and play on the collegiate level, there’s nine more that won’t get that opportunity, and they’ll always wonder what would have been. It’s just really a sad time athletically and academically for us.”
For Live Oak baseball coach and athletic director Jesse Cassard, the cancellation of the spring season wasn’t a surprise, pointing to the cancellations of NCAA’s spring sports seasons last month.
“I think we all saw this coming,” Cassard said. “With so many other people cancelling … with a knee-jerk reaction, it really puts other people liable, and I’m not saying that anybody did anything wrong, but it would have been nice just to cancel a month in advance instead of three or four months in advance so other people feel like they’re liable if they don’t cancel. That’s kind of what it comes down to.”
“I think the situation was handled great by (LHSAA Executive Director) Mr. (Eddie) Bonine and the LHSAA,” Cassard said. “That’s why we told our team that day (on March 13) that I didn’t think we’d play again, because when you start seeing events cancelled in June, things like that happening in one day, you have to prepare for the worst. It’s devastating to us.”
Cassard messaged his parents and players to let them know the season was finished.
“The worst part about it is that they find out over text or Twitter or e-mail, and you don’t get to have the interaction with kids or parents – the human interaction of ‘it’s OK to be emotional and you lost your senior year.’ We had a couple of players that needed to play this year to get a chance to go somewhere else. To me, the toughest thing is the way it all goes down. It’s not right, but it’s what we have to do.”
Cassard’s thoughts turned to his senior players.
“I feel for them,” Cassard said. “They don’t get to play in the playoffs and experience that anxiousness of moving on and trying make it to the state tournament or win a state championship or anything like that. It’s going to have an asterisk next to it – 2020 where there was no champion.”
Although there won’t be any more spring sports, Cassard is hopeful things will take a turn for the better.
“I hope that we can move on soon and start with our plans for summer ball and things like that – athletics in general,” Cassard said. “The football team needs to get in the weight room, needs to start conditioning. Hopefully that starts up pretty quick …”
“Life’s going to keep knocking you down, and you’ve got to keep getting back up,” Cassard said. “Tough times don’t last. Tough people do. I think our guys are going get better from this as people.”