July 23, 2020
MONTGOMERY, Alabama—Following the announcement on Wednesday from the Alabama High School Athletic Association that the fall sports seasons would start on time, Executive Director Steve Savarese went into more detail on Thursday for the plans to allow cheerleaders and the band at games as well as potentially fans in the stands.
“Please note that this information is current, but if we receive new information from the department of public health as well as any state executive orders, sports could change almost immediately,” Savarese said. “Interscholastic activities as well as our ‘Best Practices’ document are fluid. That could change with the addition of new health information.”
The AHSAA Central Board ruled on Wednesday that all students will still be allowed to participate in sports, even if they are a full-time online student. Each system will have the option to amend those rules if they so choose, meaning schools can choose not to play this fall without any penalty.
“We allow schools on a week-by-week, semester-by-semester, nine-week by nine-week, whatever they feel is safe based on the latest health information within their school district or county, they will be allowed to make that decision with no penalty,” Savarese said.
As for the individual student-athletes, everyone is going to be able to play in the fall no matter the school situation. That means traditional students, blended students (both at school and home) and virtual will all be eligible to participate. It will be up to each individual school system to decide how they will approach things.
“In accordance to a state law that was passed in 2015 that was passed to allow home school students and virtual school students, they are to be provided the same opportunity as traditional students,” Savarese said. “Local school systems may have more restrictive policy.”
It’s also up to each individual school system in allowing fans for contests. That determination of fans and the number of fans allowed will be left up to the member schools.
Any auxiliary personnel (band, cheerleaders, etc.) will need to go through a screening process similar to that of the players and coaches, but they may attend and perform at games or contests if the local school or school district approves.
“Local schools will determine how many fans will be allowed to attend the game,” Savarese said. “We’re looking forward in the next few weeks the Alabama Department of Public Health providing documents on attendance in athletic events.
“We do not govern cheerleading and band, but we encourage all school systems to provide and opportunity for the band to participate and cheerleaders to be part of the contest.”
Fall sports teams have the option to begin fall workouts on July 27 with the first week used by football for acclimation purposes only with helmets and shorts only. The other fall sports – volleyball, cross country and swimming and diving – can use the first week for acclimation and tryouts. Schools not choosing that option may start fall practice on August 3. The first contests can be played no earlier than August 20 and the first scrimmage date can be no earlier than August 7.
From a football standpoint there are several rule changes that will take place. One of those is that the sideline box will be extended from the 10-yard line to the other 10-yard line. While the coaching box hasn’t been extended, this is used to limit the amount of people around the coaches and team.
Players, coaches, officials, chain gangs, etc. are all encouraged to wear a mask. The only time that won’t be possible is when a player is physically in the game.
Football rules updates:
Team Box (Rule 1-2-3g) • The team (players only) box will be extended on both sides of the field to the 10-yard lines, (coaches will continue to be restricted from 25 to 25-yard lines), in order for more social-distancing space for teams.
Face Masks [Rule 1-5-1a, 1-5-3c (4)] • Cloth face coverings are permissible. • Plastic shields covering the entire face (unless integrated into the face mask and attached to the helmet and clear without the presence of any tint) shall NOT be allowed during the contest.
Gloves (Rule 1-5-2b) • Gloves are permissible but still must comply with Rule 1-5-2b by meeting either the NOCSAE Standard or the SFIA Specification.
Charged Time-Outs and Authorized Conferences (Rules 2-6-2, 3-5-3, 3-5-8) • Charged time-outs will be extended to a maximum of two minutes in length. • It will be permissible for more than one coach to be involved in the conference and for technology (headsets) to be used. 5. Intermission between periods and after scoring (Rule 3-5-7l) • The intermission between periods (first/second and third/fourth) as well as the time period following a try, successful field goal or safety and prior to the succeeding free kick will also be extended to a maximum of two minutes.
Coin Toss Captain (3-2-2) • Only one captain from each team may be present at the coin toss with the Referee and Umpire. The same procedure will be utilized for overtime.
The following are NFHS best practices
Individuals should maintain social distancing of 6 feet at all times while in the team box.
Individuals should not share uniforms, towels and other apparel and equipment.
The ball should be cleaned and sanitized throughout the contest as recommended by the ball manufacturer. Ball handlers should maintain social distancing of 6 feet at all times during the contest.
Officials may use an electronic whistle and wear cloth face coverings.
All individuals, including each player and official when brought out on the field during time outs, should have their own beverage container.
Suspend handshakes during the coin toss, pregame and postgame.
Players, coaches, team personnel and game administration officials should wash and sanitize their hands as often as possible.
Gloves and cloth face coverings are permissible for all coaches, team staff and game administration officials.
Non-essential personnel should be restricted from the field during the contest.
If available, dressing facilities for game officials and teams should be large enough for them to use social distancing protocols and should be properly cleaned and sanitized prior to their arrival.