High school sports will make a much-anticipated return this fall.
How they will look, though, remains to be seen.
State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey made the announcement last Friday during a joint press conference with State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.
"We will have extracurricular activities and co-curricular activities on campus," he said. "They will look different. And we're still working through some of those. And again, it may change from community to community."
Spring sports were canceled back in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Athletic programs, however, were allowed to resume summer activities June 1 under stricter health guidelines, including social distancing and equipment sanitizing.
“The Alabama High School Athletic Association has been working very closely with us,” Mackey said. “Executive Director Steve Savarese and I talk multiple times a week about things he's hearing from other states, things I’m hearing from other states, things we're getting from Dr. Harris and his team, and things that he's getting from his medical advisory board. They are working through safer protocols."
Cleaning equipment as often and as practical as possible, and limiting the number of people on the sidelines at football games are among some of those protocols.
"There are ways to make it safer and cleaner than what we have done before," Mackey said.
Other changes have been discussed as well, and more details are expected in the coming days.
But Mackey tackled one of the most important questions on Friday.
“Can you social distance or physical distance the crowd? Yes,” he said. “There are ways we can do that. We saw that with graduations where families sat together, but they were six feet away from the next family. All across the state, we saw that. There are ways we can make our gyms and stadiums safer for competition.”
Harris, meanwhile, said the public needs to be aware of a likely rise in COVID-19 numbers.
“I think that’s got to be a consideration as local officials make decisions about when to resume and how to resume," he said.
The AHSAA also released a statement on Friday.
“We appreciate Dr. Mackey and his staff for their tireless efforts,” Savarese said in the press release. “I am looking forward to working with school administrators and with the AHSAA Football and Fall Sports committees, which meet on July 7 in addition to the Alabama Football Coaches Association on July 8 to discuss the ALSDE Roadmap and the ADPH guidelines. The AHSAA will continue to study and produce ‘Best Practices’ (in conjunction with the AHSAA Central Board, Medical Advisory Board, ALSDE and ADPH) and will present the recommendations to the Central Board at its July 22 meeting. The AHSAA is looking forward to hosting the Kickoff Classic at Cramton Bowl, which kicks off the 2020 football season Aug. 20-21.”

Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 236 or at jwinfrey@cullmantimes.com.​

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