PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – MAY 21
By Leo Haggerty

IT AIN’T GONNA BE PRETTY

First of all, and I will start EVERY article with this paragraph, sports pales in comparison with what is occurring with the Coronavirus. Hopefully, the columns that I, and the rest of our correspondents, provide you is a momentary escape from the trials and tribulations that Americans, and the rest of the world’s population, are experiencing. The COVID-19 is not a video game that you can press reset and get a new life. This is real and dangerous so, above all, be prudent and stay safe.

You’re probably wondering why I chose a picture of me standing alone at one of the Buccaneers practices as the feature photo for this column.  Trust me, there is a method to my madness and you’ll see as you read on.

Today, I want to deal with how the Coronavirus is expected to effect interscholastic athletics especially at the high school level.  Believe me when I tell you, if you think the profession leagues as well as the college and university members of the NCAA and other organizations are facing an enormous dilemma, the K through 12 situation is exponentially more difficult.

Just getting kids back to elementary and junior high along with high schools in the fall will be a monumental task.  No matter what is done, it just ain’t going to be pretty.

After you read my article, I strongly encourage you to find the Center For Disease Control, commonly referred to the CDC, recommendations for reopening schools.  I know, after you have perused the CDC guidelines, you will probably agree with me that just getting students back in a brick-and-mortar building will be a herculean challenge let alone get athletes on the field of play.

The sign of a good journalist is to realize that someone has verbalized a better comment than you could have made on a specific topic.  That happened today as I was listening to the thoughts of Leon County (FL) Superintendent of Schools Rocky Hanna that he expressed on the Florida Education Association’s webinar.

Mr. Hanna emphasized a few salient important facts when he stated, and I paraphrase, on March 13, when we closed school until after spring break, and then until further notice and then to the end of the school year, I went to my Superintendent’s Handbook to check out the chapter on how to deal with pandemics. Unfortunately, there wasn’t one.  We are in the education business.  We are not in the health care business.

I couldn’t have said it better.  There’s no playbook for schools when this occurred.  Also, schools are set up to effectively educate large numbers of students and not as triage centers to deal with pandemics.

So, with that being said, if you ask Superintendents and School Board members the twenty most important questions that pertain to getting education back to some degree of normal in the upcoming school year, starting athletic competition would be #30.  It’s just not on their radar screen right now and rightfully so.

Let’s just look at a few problem areas for athletics.  How do you social distance on the bus going to an away game?  How do you social distance the team members that aren’t in the contest?  How do you regulate spectators?  If a player or coach tests positive for COVID-19, what is the next step?

Frankly, I have no answers to those queries and I don’t think anyone else does either.  The first order of business, and the only order of business at this time, is to find a viable alternative that will get students to school at the start of the 2020-21 academic year.

So, why the picture of me standing alone at a practice session?  That’s because this WILL be the new norm for all sporting events no matter what level they take place.

Don’t look for high school athletic events to commence until the “all clear”is given by health organizations.  There will be NOTHING left to chance, and there shouldn’t be, when it comes to the well-being of our most precious resource and that’s our children

I sure hope I’m wrong.  Sadly, I don’t think I am and only time will tell.