High school football coaches discuss 2020 season

‘We’ve dealt with natural disasters but nothing of this magnitude’

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There is no playbook for COVID-19.

In fact, the pages change daily due to new information about the deadly disease.

An uncertain future has caused much consternation, especially among the state’s high school football coaches.

Members of the Eastern North Carolina Football Coaches Association discussed numerous topics during a Zoom meeting last week. Though they had no set agenda, they agreed the class of 2020 deserved a graduation ceremony and examined the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s declaration that the dead period remains in effect until June 1.

North Carolina is currently in Phase I of Gov. Roy Cooper’s plan to re-open the state. Depending on the COVID-19 pandemic, the second phase begins May 22. The final phase starts June 5 and would not end until at least June 19.

If school buildings are closed, no practices are allowed. State and local governments must give districts the green light.

“In my mind, I had a timeframe of late June, early July,” said Spring Creek head football coach Daniel Robinson. “If we are able to get back July 1, obviously we’re not going to get as much preparation as we would like, just like everybody else, but I think we can make that work.

“It’s a weird time with weird circumstances. We’ve dealt with natural disasters, but nothing of this magnitude.”

The association has required two dead periods in July – one during the holiday week and the other during the annual NC Coaches Association Clinic. The clinic and East-West All-Star Games could be canceled.

Regular-season practice is scheduled for Aug. 1.

The first two days are helmets only. The next three days are helmets and shoulder pads. Hitting drills start the sixth day and scrimmages can occur after nine practices. With the lack of weight-room work in June and July, many coaches feel their teams would not be physically prepared for season openers on either Aug. 21 or 28.

Oppressive heat and humidity normally associated with July, August and September could factor in as well. Some teams may not get in the allotted number of practices.

“A lot of unknowns right now,” one coach commented on Zoom.

The cancellation of the spring sports season helped save athletic department budgets from incurring expenses such as paying officials, security, gate-keepers and use of stadium lights. Athletic directors from Spring Creek and Southern Wayne, which each have strong booster clubs, said they felt good about their financial situation.

Those bank accounts could take a hit this fall.

Last week, the Wayne County Board of Education announced it faced a $5 million shortfall in its budget for 2020-21. The six-person panel discussed the possibility of eliminating coaching supplements, which would save approximately $275,000.

The Board didn’t say it in so many words, but fall sports might face cancellation. Football is the lifeblood of every high school athletic department in every community, small or large, in the country.

“If you don’t have fall sports and other activities like band, art, music and cheerleading, then how can you expect kids to come to school?” another coach said in the Zoom meeting. “There is no definitive revenue stream for high school athletics. The threads of sports in small towns are not just the football teams, but everyone else involved from the fans, bands, cheerleaders, etc.”

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