The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association has a difficult decision looming. What will happen with fall high school sports as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on?
I don’t envy the position the organization is in. If it announced a plan several weeks ago, many people would’ve expressed frustration at making a decision without letting the situation evolve and allowing more information to surface.
But fall sports practices are scheduled to begin in two weeks, August 12. We’re past the point of needing to let the situation evolve. Nothing drastic is going to change between now and August 12.
The MPSSAA needs to make a decision.
At the very least, the leaders need to give the public some information as to what their process is, and when they expect to reach a decision. The public is completely in the dark.
Each county in Maryland is responsible for its own decision about school reopening — whether school will go on in person like normal, if it will be completely virtual, or if it will operate with a hybrid plan of the two, and for how long.
That works for school. But sports doesn’t really work like that, especially on the Eastern Shore. In counties such as Howard or Montgomery, the schools mainly play against other schools within the county. Meanwhile, the Bayside Conference is comprised of schools from eight counties.
Easton High football is scheduled to face schools from five different counties, plus one school from Delaware, this season. If Talbot and Wicomico counties make different plans for school, that would significantly compromise teams’ seasons.
An overarching governing body for the entire state needs to make a decision for how the entire state will approach high school sports for the fall.
But you wouldn’t know such an organization exists judging only off the information the MPSSAA has provided over the last few months.
On July 7, the MPSSAA set up and announced a “Roadmap for Return of Interscholastic Athletics” page on its website. The only immediate update the site provided was allowing schools to hold conditioning and exercise programs with proper precautions in place. But the MPSSAA said the site would be updated weekly, every Tuesday.
It hasn’t been updated since the initial post.
The organization has said a lot while saying nothing at all since the 2020 spring season was canceled. People just want information — even if it’s a statement saying discussions are in progress and a decision will come soon. But all the MPSSAA has offered is silence.
MPSSAA representatives could not be reached for comment for this story.
If sports are happening, parents need time to plan. Coaches need time to prepare, as the preparation isn’t the same without knowing if a season will actually occur. Many athletes have been training over the summer as if fall sports will go on, but the kids need to know what’s happening. It’s not fair for them to still be in limbo with the season approaching.
Let me be clear: this is not a plea to cancel or postpone high school sports. A canceled or postponed fall season would significantly impact our jobs as media covering the athletes. Reporters covering the pandemic’s impact on sports are not “rooting” for sports to get shut down. I constantly hope the MPSSAA finds a way to play high school sports safely — even if it’s not all sports, even if it’s an irregular season and structure.
But if the MPSSAA is going to cancel or postpone, it needs to act now. Pushing off the decision is only going to worsen the hurt.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching implications beyond high school sports. With still so many unknowns about the deadly virus and how destructive it’s been to the economy, sports are certainly not the most important thing requiring action.
But the MPSSAA’s purpose is to oversee high school sports in the state of Maryland. The organization has dedicated employees, as well as an executive council with representatives from across the state.
Many other states around the country have already made decisions and announced plans for fall sports. There are plenty of examples to look at.
Like I said before, nothing significant about the pandemic in the U.S. is going to change between now and August 12. If it does, it’s only going to get worse.
The MPSSAA has all the information and context it needs to make a decision, or at least inform the public of where the group is at in the decision process. But no useful information has been offered. Speculation and frustration are growing daily. As more counties announce their individual decisions, the MPSSAA’s silence only looks worse.
So what are you waiting for, MPSSAA? The ball has been in your court for months. Pick it up and do something.
Follow me on Twitter @SethTow. Follow us on Instagram @StarDem_Sports.