7.29 khsaa

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association's Board of Control overwhelmingly approved a number of measures on Tuesday that will set the stage for a return to competition.

The members agreed to keep all regularly scheduled fall sports in season, but with delayed starting dates because of continuing concern over COVID-19.

The decisions, of course, are subject to change depending on health conditions across the state.

"We have to be ready to pivot at a moment's notice," KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett said. "We have to be flexible."

The organization is determined to move forward, despite the public health risk.

Soccer, volleyball, cross country and field hockey can begin practice on Aug. 24 and hold regular-season games on Sept. 7.

Football teams can also return to the practice field on Aug. 24, with games set to begin on Sept. 11.

Competitive cheer and dance also have a start date of Aug. 24, but with the recommendation that activity in these sports be held outdoors where safety equipment and conditions will permit.

The board is set to meet again on Aug. 20.

At that time, the situation may have to be re-evaluated.

"It's a pandemic," Tackett said. "There are going to be outbreaks. It's going to happen."

In a meeting earlier this month, the KHSAA agreed to allow golf to start play on Aug. 1.

That left questions about every other fall sport, though, most notably football.

While other neighboring states have cancelled fall sports (recently Virginia) or moved them to the spring, it appears the KHSAA never seriously considered that option.

"It needs to be in the fall," Tackett said about high school football.

Keeping football will result in a change to the schedule.

Teams will play nine regular-season games and the playoffs will start on Nov. 13. The postseason format remains the same with five rounds.

The state championships games in all six divisions are tentatively scheduled for Dec. 11 and 12 at Kroger Field in Lexington at the University of Kentucky.

On Aug. 24, teams can practice in helmets only, leading up to shoulder pads on Sept. 2 and full pads three days later.

Football teams will also be limited to only 60 players in uniform for each game in an effort to abide by social distancing guidelines.

The separate motions to restart of each segment of all fall sports passed without any "no" votes, but Jerry Wyman, director of athletics for Jefferson County Public Schools, abstained each time and expressed his frustration with the process.

"I just can't vote for it," he said at one point.

He later added, "We are painting ourselves into a corner. What do we do if we have an outbreak on a team?"

In that situation, Tackett suggested it would be up to school officials to figure out the best way to deal with the issue.

"That's an administrative issue, not a medical decision," he said.

Tackett seemed to downplay the potential hazards of youth athletes returning to sports, especially in football. The commissioner said that many neighboring states had returned to practice, some in full pads, and that he was not aware of increases in COVID-19 cases.

"There's no evidence of player-to-player transmission (in those states)," Tackett said.

The KHSAA did adopt several new policies aimed at addressing the potential spread of COVID-19.

The board passed a motion to limit competition to only in-state opponents, with the only exception being from out-state schools which are from counties that border Kentucky.

They also limited competition in all team sports, except golf and cross country, to just eight squads.

Those two regulations are for all athletic events until further notice.

In one of its final acts, the board approved an amendment to a previous motion, allowing 7.5 hours of practice for all sports in the first week of practice (beginning Aug. 24).

Until the official start of practice, teams in all fall sports will continue in "Segment 3" of the COVID-19 guidelines, which allow for small group conditioning, weight lifting and skills work with a limit of six hours a week.

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