A letter signed by 35 Arizona high school football coaches strongly encourages the powers that be to consider moving the season from the fall to the spring.
With the California Interscholastic Federation announcing a plan to start football in the winter, it seems that spurred many coaches in neighboring Arizona to make a plea for a spring schedule.
I have advocated for keeping all options open, and right now, pushing football to the spring may be the only way to save it. That’s the sentiment expressed by the 35 coaches who signed the letter that was addressed to high school athletic directors, principals, superintendents and the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
“We are concerned about the uncertainty that is happening across our state in regards to opening schools with in person learning this fall,” the letter states. “The AIA released a plan for the fall season to essentially be pushed back the three weeks school has been pushed back so far. With all this uncertainty it is probable that the season will be significantly cut or cancelled.”
The AIA announced that it expects to start the football season the week of Sept. 7 (Friday of that week is Sept. 11), but that is nothing more than a hope at this point. Nothing is set in stone for football or any other sport. The same is true of in-person schooling versus remote learning.
“AZ HS football head coaches are requesting the AIA significantly examine a start date to be in the spring of the 2021 semester,” the letter says.
The letter points out several specific reasons why the coaches are advocating to move football to the spring, but it really boils down to this: they don’t think players and teams are ready to begin a season in the fall.
That’s due to several factors, including a lack of preparation for players, and more importantly, the feeling that proper safety guidelines and procedures are not in place.
The letter says “coaches are not health professionals that are prepared to lead this front. Resources and assistance in these areas are so complex we will be unable to determine if our methods are effective until someone or their family is a victim.”
Fifteen of the 35 coaches who signed the letter represent Tucson area high schools, such as Oro Valley Canyon del Oro, Tucson Sahuaro, Marana and Vail Cienega. Phoenix area coaches include those from Tempe, Gilbert, Peoria, Scottsdale Horizon and Phoenix Pinnacle.
Only one Pinal County coach signed the letter – Chris Semore of Vista Grande.
I asked Casa Grande Union coach Jake Barro if he agreed with having a spring football season in Arizona.
“I do for the most part,” he said in a text message. “The tough thing would be to make sure the sport seasons don’t overlap. California has a pretty good model, they are playing football in December [through] March and spring sports go into late June. It could be done.”
Barro added he is in support of what the AIA is doing so far, keeping the option of a fall season alive. The AIA said it expects to have eight to 10 regular season games if football is played in the fall.
There would be logistical challenges for field usage with some spring sports overlapping. It would also create conflicts for athletes who play football and a spring sport.
New Mexico is another neighboring state that has moved certain fall sports back, as it has pushed football and soccer to the spring.
“As we have seen other states moving to a model that moves fall sports to the spring, we are hoping to be a part of the bold and difficult decision to do the same,” the Arizona coaches’ letter states.
A winter football season could also be played in Arizona, but it’s clear that many coaches in the state believe more time is needed. Spring could be the best option after all.