INDIANAPOLIS – Last week, the Indiana High School Athletic Association announced that teams, players and coaches will be allowed to start meeting up for summer activities on July 1.
Bobby Cox, the outgoing commissioner of the IHSAA who is retiring later this summer, says they chose that date because the Department of Education sees June 30 as the official end of an academic year.
“So if July 1 comes, and we don’t have any setbacks, and our local school boards are ready to open their school buildings, then our coaches can come together with their kids in school facilities and on school grounds,” he told Bob Lovell on Network Indiana’s Indiana Sports Talk. “Let’s let these schools come back together – at the discretion of our local school boards and superintendents.”
Cox said the date could change, if the state has to make adjustments to slowly re-opening with Governor Holcomb’s five-stage plan.
“This is uncharted territory. We don’t have a playbook for this,” Cox said. “Obviously, the thing that could change this is a spike in the death rate.”
Usually, the IHSAA has a moratorium week during the first week of July, but Cox said the association got together and agreed to waive that dead period for athletes this year, because of the pandemic.
“These kids have been away from their coaches for 60 days now, and it’s going to be longer,” he said.
The IHSAA had to cancel the boys basketball postseason in March because of the coronavirus, and then scrap the entire spring sports season.
However, Cox is trying to remain positive about the idea of the fall sports season starting on time.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said. “Lord knows that our communities need it. From an emotional and a social standpoint, and from a competitive standpoint for our student-athletes.”
Cox added that in order for there to be a football season, we must have a safe summer.
“That means we gotta keep doing what we’ve been told to do,” he said. “Keep flattening that curve.”
Superintendents across the state are trying to figure out if or when students will be allowed to return to school later this year. But Cox says there’s another big issue they’re dealing with – budgets.
He says with many Hoosiers losing their jobs plus not going out and buying as many things, there aren’t as many tax dollars being collected. That has a direct impact on how much money the state legislature can provide for education. Cox says that means schools are going to have to cut their budgets for many things, including sanitizing.
“Let’s take a large school that is a 750,000 square foot facility. That takes tens of thousands of dollars to sanitize that building,” he said. “Well where is that money going to come from? That doesn’t just come out of the air.”
He calls the pandemic a big issue with “far-reaching tentacles” that will have an effect on schools across Indiana, let alone the athletic departments that might not have the same size of crowds coming to their events.
Cox says the financial issue for many schools will last a long time.
“I don’t think this is going to happen overnight. It’s not going to happen in a year. This is going to be a multi-year recovery.”
Cox said he talked with many superintendents last week, and a lot of them are “nervous and scared” because there aren’t any clear answers right now.