Eric Bishop didn't really know how to feel Monday, when the GHSA announced plans to push back the start of the high school football season to September.
But Tuesday provided more clarity for football coaches around the state. As such, Bishop is now more relieved than anything.
“This has come off, in my opinion, as the best-case scenario under all the circumstances we’re dealing with,” the Adairsville head football coach said. “I think Glenn White, [Robin] Hines, Kevin Giddens and all of those guys have done a good job of moving through this process. My hat’s off to GHSA right now. They’ve done a good job.”
Monday's GHSA Board of Trustees meeting approved a two-week delay
to the start of the season, pushing back initial games to the week of Sept. 4. The governing body made it clear then that playing 10 regular-season games and conducting five rounds of playoffs was still the objective, but how exactly that would work wasn't announced.
Well, the plan to fit those 15 weeks of games onto the GHSA calendar became clear Tuesday, when the 2020-21 fall schedule was finalized. It includes moving forward with the start of official football practices next Monday with a week of acclimation in helmets only.
The regular season will remain 12 weeks long, allowing teams to essentially push back all of their previously scheduled games. Those originally set for Aug. 21 would move to Sept. 4, those scheduled for Aug. 28 would be played Sept. 11, and so forth. Thus, the end of the regular season would occur the week of Nov. 20.
As for the postseason, the first four rounds of the playoffs would be conducted in consecutive weeks from Nov. 27 to Dec. 18. The state finals now will be held Dec. 28-30 at Georgia State Stadium. The Monday-Wednesday contests will maintain the previously announced schedule for games, including Class 3A at noon and 5A at 3:30 p.m. on the final day.
“There have been several different proposals out there,” Bishop said. “I didn’t know if this one would make it in. Some of the others created problems with officials and stuff like that. I like where we’re headed.
“We’re going to get helmet-only acclimation on Monday and pads the following week. It gives us a chance to make up some of the time we lost with spring practice and the couple of weeks over the course of May and June that we didn’t get. The scrimmages are — the way I understand it — still up in the air. If we got those, that would be even better. That would be icing on the cake at this point.”
Minutes later, Bishop received an email from the GHSA, confirming, "All games, including scrimmages, have been unilaterally moved 2 weeks later."
The email also noted the Sports Medicine Advisory Council would address issues pertaining to locker rooms and equipment at its weekly meeting. However, per the email, "Guidance regarding stadium seating, concessions, venues and spectators will be coming later from sport administrators. Without going into detail, these decisions will be made on the local level with an expectation of including Department of Health, local health professionals, and school district policies."
In the meantime, Bishop's primary focus has become confirming schedules for all Adairsville football teams from varsity through middle school. He also mentioned having spent several hours Tuesday discussing plans with all stakeholders. That being said, it was welcomed chaos as it meant a plan was beginning to take shape.
“This is the call we’ve been waiting for,” Bishop said. “Not necessarily a phone call, but a call from the GSHA to give us direction for the long term so that we can plan and prepare. … It’s work that we’ve been waiting to do, no doubt, and it’s work we’re glad to do and get started on.”
After relaying the situation to his players, Bishop remarked that the information was well received, particularly by a senior class that already missed out on its final set of spring practices.
“They were obviously pleased, the seniors most of all,” Bishop said. “… It seemed like it was a weight off their shoulders that they were going to at least play. [Senior quarterback] Conner [Crunkelton] was the one who said it, ‘That’s great news.’”
Even still, there remains a possibility the season is unable to be completed as scheduled. Bishop understands this, and he's making sure his players do, as well.
“While they’re saying we can get started, there’s no guarantee on the back end of this,” Bishop said. “You’ve got to savor the moment.”