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MHSAA director hopeful sports will resume

Public schools in Mississippi have not been closed for the year because of the COVID-19 pandemic — at least not yet — and until they are, Mississippi High School Activities Association executive director Don Hinton said his organization is holding out hope that high school sports in the state will resume this season.

The MHSAA has suspended practices and competition until April 17, in line with Gov. Tate Reeves’ order to close public schools until that date. Reeves issued a shelter-in-place order that is in effect from April 3 to April 20 at 8 a.m.

On Thursday, Hinton said that if the school year is canceled then the MHSAA would also cancel the remainder of the spring sports season. He added, however, that the MHSAA is also making plans to resume athletics and activities if schools reopen on April 20, while evaluating the situation on a daily and weekly basis.

“We just keep looking at it like everybody else. It’s more on a day-to-day basis as much as it is a week-to-week,” Hinton said. “There’s no harm done in us having hope that we can continue, and if we get to a point where that’s no longer possible based on time factors, based on health factors, the social distancing, all of those things, then we’ll let our health advisors end up making that decision for us more than likely.”

Don Hinton

The MHSAA’s sports medicine advisory committee meets each Friday, Hinton said, and the organization’s 15-member executive committee then makes decisions based on its advice.
The sports medicine committee is comprised of athletic administrators, certified athletic trainers and physicians. The executive committee is comprised of administrators from member schools.

“Our sports medicine advisory committee has been terrific. We’ve been listening to them,” Hinton said. “They do a thorough job when it comes to looking at the consequences of participation and all of those kinds of things. Our executive committee at the MHSAA makes the final decision.”

If the spring season does resume on April 20, it’s unclear what sports would be able to resume immediately and when — or how long the season might last.

Hinton said there would be a 7-to-10 day preseason period to allow athletes to get back in shape after nearly six weeks off. Sports and activities geared more toward individual competition and natural social distancing, such as golf and tennis, might also be easier to resume than team sports like baseball and softball.

With all of the sports, Hinton said, scheduling will be a challenge. The spring season was about halfway through when competition was interrupted, and region play in baseball and softball was just about to begin. Hinton was hopeful that a brief regular season could still be conducted.

The baseball and softball playoffs were originally scheduled to begin the week of April 27. The golf, tennis and track and field seasons normally conclude in the first or second week of May.

One solution, Hinton said, was to extend the season beyond graduation and into June, although that presents a number of logistical problems.

“If you had a week or two, it could be that you allow three games per week. That’s six games in the regular season and then you could possibly have something. If it’s May, then you could have some semblance of a playoff in June,” Hinton said. “There’s a lot of stuff to look at about June, though. You’ve got coaches changing positions in the summer, all of your travel ball and those different things. There’s all kinds of issues when you get into the month of June.”

Any scenario, however, is dependent upon the COVID-19 outbreak abating and schools reopening as scheduled on April 20. As long as schools are closed, Hinton said, sports will follow. If the closure is extended, he added, there will also come a time when a hard decision will need to be made.

Until then, hope remains that games will be played again this spring.

“We’ll have a drop dead date before long where it’s just not feasible, and it’s not what’s best for our schools and our kids. But right now we just continue to look ahead and be very hopeful. If it could happen, we want to make it happen. But we’ll have to see what the future holds,” Hinton said. “We will continue to suspend activities as long as our schools are closed. And if our schools are able to open, then we will have some time to determine what to do with sports and activities.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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