MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – High school football players in Alabama will take the field, but the novel coronavirus ensures it will be a season like no other.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association announced its decision in a news release Wednesday afternoon to move forward using “best practices.” The association’s executive director, Steve Savarese, will elaborate Thursday at a remote news conference.
“I want to thank this Central Board for having the courage to do the right thing,” he said in a statement. “Moving forward, this is a great day for our association.”
With the pandemic raging, states are taking different approaches to schools and athletics. California decided Monday to delay its fall sports season.
Gulf Shores schools Superintendent Matt Akin told FOX10 News that he expects sports to begin, but he added he would not be surprised to see plans change.
“I can just repeat what Coach Savarese has said, and he’s been pretty steady there will be fall sports,” he said. “But again, back to the everyday world we live in, I think at some point, there will be some schools that aren’t playing. … I’m sure we’ll be faced with it at some point during the year.”
It remains whether Mobile County public schools will participate. Alabama’s largest school system last week rolled out a return-to-school plan to includes delaying the start of the year until Sept. 1, and then providing online instruction only for the first nine weeks.
Schools spokeswoman Rena Philips told FOX10 News that administrators had not settled on a plan.
“We would like to read the full (AHSAA) document tomorrow before making any comment and finalizing our plan for Mobile County Public Schools,” she said in an email.
The association’s Central Board debated the issue and voted outside of public view in an online meeting with restricted access. The approach varied dramatically in Florida, where that state’s high school sports association held a Zoom meeting open to the public on Monday.
“So, the motion does pass,” said Lauren Otero, president of the association’s board of directors. “If you could please reiterate again, what was just approved.”
What the board approved was the status quo. Florida will keep its current sports calendar. It was a difficult decision, amid a public health emergency. But board members hashed it out in front of citizens and cast its vote in public.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association offered no such transparency.
“This is something that’s very dangerous, that we have to stay on top of in the world we’re living in right now, ’cause a lot of entities are having meetings online,” said Sharon Tinsley, president of the Alabama Broadcasters Association.
Tinsley told FOX10 News there probably is no legal issue since the association is a private entity likely outside of Alabama’s open meetings law, even though it makes decisions affecting public schools.
Tinsley also criticized the association’s format for the news conference Thursday. Savarese will announce the decision and set aside 20 minutes for questions – questions that must submitted in advance.
The association did not respond to our requests to elaborate on its decision to hold the meeting outside of public view.