LHSAA simplifies stance on COVID-19, Forfeits replace no-contest decisions

Published 8:00 am Friday, August 13, 2021

By Rodrick Anderson

American Press

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association implemented stricter rules and forfeits for teams that find themselves with COVID-19 issues this school year, but on the bright side, there are no attendance limits on indoor or outdoor prep sporting events, Executive Director Eddie Bonine said during a Thursday morning virtual online meeting with state media.

If a team cannot play because of COVID, that team will forfeit the game, giving the opponent a win. Last season, the game was a no contest.

The rule change was brought about after many reports of teams using the no-contest rule to manipulate their power ranking and playoff position.

“We had, unfortunately, individual schools that were trying to manipulate the season and their schedule, using COVID as a reason to do so,” Bonine said. “The bottom line is the superintendents wanted something that was cut and dry.”

It also eliminates the musical-chairs schedule that teams had to play to find a last-minute replacement opponent.

“They have shown that they appreciate what we have done in regards to not trying to have our director of the coaches association, Eric Held, to play schedule dating,” Bonine said. “It just became a mess. At the end of the day, if you can’t play because of COVID, you forfeit.”

There are no attendance restrictions unless local jurisdictions or school districts implement their own, said Bonine, adding that the LHSAA will leave restrictions and enforcement to the state, health department and local organizations.

“Those decisions are not being made here,” Bonine said. “Those decisions are being made by the local education association or agency in cooperation with their regional epidemiologist and the department of health.

“If it comes out being COVID, it’s COVID. I am not refereeing that. I am not putting the black-and-white shirt on and referee what is and what is not, who is wearing masks in the gym, who is not wearing masks. That is not what we are doing this year.”

While infection rates continue to rise, Bonine said he doesn’t believe there will be many forfeits as schools are are better prepared to deal with and limit the transmission of COVID-19.

“I think we are well trained and the membership is well trained,” he said. “I don’t think the forfeits are going to be a big deal, but cases are going to happen.

“I just don’t think it is going to happen much because there are a lot of schools across the state that don’t want to miss any games, and they are going to take the precautionary measure necessary to do so.”

Swimming

The state swimming championships will return to Sulphur Parks and Recreation’s Aquatic Center after it was moved to Shreveport in 2020 because of hurricane damage and hotel availability issues. The meet will be Nov. 17-20.

“We are very confident of that,” said Michael Federico, LHSAA assistant executive director. “Baseball and softball were hosted there (Sulphur) in the spring.

“We definitely saw the progression from the fall to the spring of how the infrastructure has been built up. We have had phone calls with (SPAR) and the Lake Charles (Convention and Visitors Bureau) about a week and a half ago. They didn’t mention any concerns. We are very confident that schools can start booking hotels and it will be a good place for our tournament.”

Basketball

While the National High School Federation has added a shot clock for basketball, the LHSAA said it doesn’t plan to follow suit any time soon.

“Our coaches have mixed emotions on that,” Assistant Executive Director Karen Hoyt said. “We have several that are in favor of that.

“Most are not in favor of a shot clock. If I was still coaching, I would be a proponent. I love to play fast. I didn’t like the stall game in basketball.”

One of the major hang-ups is the cost, which Hoyt estimated at between $3,000 and $5,000 per gym plus the cost of an extra official to run the shot clock and the required training.

Vanishing officials

Assistant Executive Director Lee Sanders said the number of football officials has decreased significantly over the last two years as well in all sports.

There are 848 football officials registered for this season, down from 1,078 in 2020 and 1,215 in 2019.

Volleyball has dropped to 275 from 352 in 2019.

Overall for the sports of baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball, volleyball and wrestling, the number went down from 4,351 in 2019-202 to 3,887 in 2020-2021.