The Georgia High School Association Board of Trustees has decided to push the start of the 2020 football season back two weeks.
The board voted unanimously (12-0) for a new start date of Sept. 4. All 10 games of the regular season will remain, along with all five weeks of the playoffs. It is still unclear as to whether the schedule will include the current bye weeks, or if they will be removed.
While football is being pushed back, all the other fall sports — volleyball, softball, cross country and the new girls flag football are expected to start on time.
Marietta athletic director Craig McKinney said he was encouraged to see that some of the sports that are lower risk were going to get to get their seasons started as scheduled.
“Anytime we can give the kids the opportunity to compete and play safely I’m all for it,” he said.
The conditioning and practice dates for football are to remain the same. Players will report for the first day of mandatory practice on Monday. It will be the first of the acclimation process for the heat. No pads will be worn. The first pads can be worn is Aug. 1.
Preseason scrimmages will now take place on Aug. 21 and 28.
If the season is kept intact with the bye weeks, that would push the state championship games to Christmas week. Already scheduled to be played over three days, that could mean games on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, however it is unlikely the GHSA, or Georgia State, where the games are scheduled, would have teams playing on those days.
McKinney said another unintended consequence of the football season being delayed is teams will be playing on one of their usual scheduled off weeks — fall break. Instead of families potentially taking trips the weekend of Oct. 2, Marietta could be getting ready to play Parkview, Harrison matching up with Westlake, Kell taking on Kennesaw Mountain and Pope will be traveling to South Cobb.
McKinney also said a benefit of the delay will be to receive better guidance from the GHSA on a number of things pertaining to football season, but one of the key ones will be on fan attendance at games.
Shortly after the beginning of Monday’s meeting in Thomaston, GHSA Board president Glenn White allowed Walton parent Amy Henry to address the board. She articulated a message about how important sports was to the high school athletes and how the benefits of their playing this fall outweighed the risks of the coronavirus.
It was then suggested by Fulton County Athletic Director Steven Craft that the season be delayed. Atlanta Public Schools athletic director Jasper Jewell agreed with Craft and said his district might be the first to cancel fall sports completely if the football season was not pushed back the two weeks, citing needing additional time to prepare.
Executive Director Robin Hines suggested keeping the schedule as it was, and continue to help the districts that need it, but that idea was voted down when Charlton County athletic director Jesse Crews made a motion to keep the current GHSA calendar. That motion was voted down 8-4.