CASA GRANDE — When the NFL announced it had decided to cancel the Hall of Fame preseason game, that was a red flag for Randy Robbins.
“That brought up a red flag to me because [the NFL] don’t cancel anything,” said Robbins, the athletic director at Casa Grande Union who played nine seasons in the NFL. “That’s a red flag in my eyes. We (Arizona) are on fire here. This is just a forest fire. We are headed in the wrong direction (in relation to coronavirus cases).”
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise sharply in recent weeks, Robbins said earlier on Monday that the district was looking at moving back the start of the school year from Aug. 3 to Aug. 10. However, on Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey announced school openings would be delayed until at least Aug. 17.
The governor’s decision to push back the start of the school year could also force the Arizona Interscholastic Association to push back the start of the football season, which is scheduled for Aug. 21.
Last week, the AIA announced it was going to send out surveys to school principals to gauge what schools are doing with their reopening plans. The AIA will use that information to help determine how it will move forward.
Robbins, along with CG Union football coach Jake Barro, say the season should be moved back at least two weeks.
“I think they need to be moved back altogether because kids are not in condition to play,” Robbins said. “They are just not. You can’t get ready for a football season in a month and a half. I just think it all needs to be moved back.”
A majority of high schools began welcoming back athletes to campus for workout at the beginning of June. Casa Grande Union and Vista Grande started their offseason workouts last week, and schools in Tucson won’t start workouts until July 1. Some schools that began workouts have already shut down their programs as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the state.
For Robbins, he’s not just concerned about the health and safety for the kids, but what if fans are not permitted to attend high school football games in the fall.
“I need those gate receipts to function,” he said. “And I don’t see that happening. In Arizona, we’re not in good shape (with the number of COVID-19 cases). Do I think we will be in good shape in a month and a half? No! Our numbers are way up. They are way up.”
In the meantime, Robbins is planning for football in the fall and having a full fall sports season, but admitted he feels in his heart there’s no way that can happen until something drastically changes with the current number of COVID-19 cases.
He adds that unless Ducey doesn’t put in some restrictions and the state doesn’t see any significant improvements, then it may not be the fall sports season that could be in trouble, but winter and spring sports as well.
Robbins’ remarks where before the governor announced an executive order to shut down all bars, nightclubs and theaters, along with public pools and tubing along the Salt River for 30 days.
“If things are not starting to turn around by mid-September, I think the winter season, will be wait and see,” Robbins said. And I think our fall season is being put in jeopardy to start on time.”