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How will the 2020 Alabama high school football season look?

Montgomery, AL – The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) released its “Best Practices” for the 2020 fall sports season during a Thursday afternoon press conference from the association’s headquarters in Montgomery.

The AHSAA’s Central Board of Control and Medical Advisory Committee approved the guidelines designed to assist coaches, players and school districts in navigating the fall sports seasons through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The association has opened the door for teams to begin practices next week with an eye on starting as scheduled and playing complete seasons through championship play. AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese cautioned that the association and local school systems would monitor the pandemic with the possibility of tightening restrictions or pausing play as the situation statewide, or in a specific area dictates.

2019 AHSAA Super 7 Championships at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Brant Berry | PrepsNet

Schools are open to begin fall practice on or after July 27th with two-a-days allowed to begin August 3rd. Teams will not be allowed to scrimmage until Friday, August 7th with games beginning August 20th.

“If we can get in five games, eight games – nobody knows what tomorrow holds . . . If things get worse in the future, at least our kids will get some experience of a season.”

Steve Savarese, AHSAA Executive Director

The AHSAA will not apply uniform limits to stadium capacity or limit spectator access to games. All decisions concerning fans, student sections, stadium seating, etc., are under the guidance of the home team and are encouraged by the AHSAA to be in accordance with CDC, ADPH, and local health guidelines. When physical distancing cannot be maintained, facial coverings are suggested. If home teams limit attendance at at their facility, equal access must be granted to the visiting team. Bands and cheerleaders are deemed essential and may travel to and perform at all home and away contests.

If a local school board will not allow a team to participate in a scheduled game, whether a school campus is open or closed regardless of the instruction model (traditional, blended, virtual, or remote learning), every game not played will be forfeited by the team who with the opposing team being awarded a win. In this case, no fines or forfeitures will be assessed.  If a school is closed or a team is quarantined during the postseason the team will be eliminated from participation.

Arab QB Ross Reynolds passes during the Knights 2019 win over Madison Academy. Brant Berry | PrepsNet

If a sub-varsity student athlete (middle school, junior high or junior varsity) is attending a school who choses not to participate in athletics the student will be allowed to transfer to any school and be eligible to play if all other eligibility requirements are met.

Local school districts can modify, delay or suspend their team’s participation at anytime without penalty. Also, all students regardless if they are enrolled in on-campus or virtual learning with be allowed to play.

Some of the changes that you will notice in stadiums this season will include:

1. Team Box • The team (players only) box will be extended on both sides of the field to the 10-yard lines, (coaches will continue to be restricted from 25 to 25-yard lines), in order for more social-distancing space for teams.

2. Face Masks • Cloth face coverings are permissible. • Plastic shields covering the entire face (unless integrated into the face mask and attached to the helmet and clear without the presence of any tint) shall NOT be allowed during the contest.

3. Gloves • Gloves are permissible but still must comply with Rule 1-5-2b by meeting either the NOCSAE Standard or the SFIA Specification.

4. Charged Time-Outs and Authorized Conferences • Charged time-outs will be extended to a maximum of two minutes in length. • It will be permissible for more than one coach to be involved in the conference and for technology (headsets) to be used.

5. Intermission between periods and after scoring • The intermission between periods (first/second and third/fourth) as well as the time period following a try, successful field goal or safety and prior to the succeeding free kick will also be extended to a maximum of two minutes.

6. Coin Toss Captain • Only one captain from each team may be present at the coin toss with the Referee and Umpire. The same procedure will be utilized for overtime.

2018 AHSAA Super 7 Championships at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Brant Berry | PrepsNet

The following are NFHS best practices:1. Individuals should maintain social distancing of 6 feet at all times while in the team box. 2. Individuals should not share uniforms, towels and other apparel and equipment. 3. The ball should be cleaned and sanitized throughout the contest as recommended by the ball manufacturer. Ball handlers should maintain social distancing of 6 feet at all times during the contest. 4. Officials may use an electronic whistle and wear cloth face coverings. 5. All individuals, including each player and official when brought out on the field during time outs, should have their own beverage container. 6. Suspend handshakes during the coin toss, pregame and postgame. 7. Players, coaches, team personnel and game administration officials should wash and sanitize their hands as often as possible. 8. Gloves and cloth face coverings are permissible for all coaches, team staff and game administration officials. 9. Non-essential personnel should be restricted from the field during the contest. 10. If available, dressing facilities for game officials and teams should be large enough for them to use social distancing protocols and should be properly cleaned and sanitized prior to their arrival.