Football has been moved to the spring as part of Season C of the new 2020-21 CHSAA sports calendar.
What does that mean for the sport? We caught up with CHSAA assistant commissioner Adam Bright, who oversees football, to ask.
Question: What was the reasoning behind moving football to the spring?
Bright: Given current state guidelines, football and contact sports would not be able to resume on a normal calendar.
This is a year where we have to forget what the top of the calendar says. It really doesn't matter what month it is. We have to be focused on the fact that the season is able to play, period. The fact that we are able to give these kids a chance to compete, to participate with their teammates, learn from their coaches, is what matters.
Q: OK spill the details … how many games, what do playoffs look like, and so on? What's the plan?
Bright: It will start on Feb. 22, and run through May 8. Games will begin on March 4. There will not be a scrimmage week, nor will there be “foundation games” this season. Because of that, games will begin at the end of the second week of practice. Thursday, March 4 would be the first allowable game, meaning that teams will conduct practices Monday through Saturday during that first week, then would need three practices from Monday to Wednesday of the second week to achieve the mandatory nine practices prior to the first game.
The football season will be seven weeks long. Given that football is played only one game per week, seven games allows for a season that resembles a “normal” season and maximizes contests during the same number of weeks as other sports.
Football is being allowed to start practice a week earlier than other sports in Season C because of the required number of practices to begin play. And because it only has one game per week, the football postseason is extended an additional week to allow for a longer postseason.
Q: So with the season being reduced to seven games, how will scheduling work?
Bright: To build a schedule, we will build off of what their fall 2020 season was to look like. We will send this information to athletic directors so that there is a clear understanding of what schedules will look like.
The overarching goal is to have teams begin their schedules roughly midway through what would have been their normal schedule. For example, 5A and 4A will begin in Week 4 and play games 4-10 as games 1-7. In 3A the season would include Weeks 5-11, with 2A and below starting on Week 4 and playing through Week 10. Our friends in 6-man football would play games regularly scheduled in weeks 3 through 9 as games 1-7.
Obviously, there are things like bye weeks and out-of-state games for some teams in Weeks 4 and 5 mostly, and we will work in conjunction with athletic directors to build a database of open weeks for teams to fill. The expectation is teams will play their condensed season as scheduled, utilizing the database as a resource to fill previously scheduled bye weeks.
Q: In my best Jim Mora voice: "Playoffs? You want to talk about playoffs?"
Bright: The football postseason will see a reduction to eight teams in each classification. These eight teams will all enter the postseason at the same time, and championships will all be done on the same weekend.
As we have seen, things can change quickly within the pandemic, and as such, logistics like location and time for these championship games will be a work in progress as we move closer to that time. Seeding and qualification for the postseason will be based on the four data points within the CHSAA Seeding Index, with the top eight eligible teams in each classification being placed in the postseason.
Q: Are there any practice limits or other items that would be different than a “normal” season?
Bright: Again, as things can change during this pandemic, we would have to take a wait and see approach. We have discussed various practice guidelines and scenarios based on different levels of COVID-19 restrictions and outbreaks. To speak to what the end of February and the month of March will require on the 4th of August is premature.
If we do foresee needs for practice guidelines that differ from those in the past, I can assure our coaches that they will have plenty of time to implement any changes if necessary.