OWESPTS-08-28-20 KHSAA FALL

Owensboro’s Gavin Wimsatt throws downfield against the rush of Apollo’s Jarrod Gray during a game on Sept. 13, 2019, at Eagle Stadium.

Despite reports late Wednesday night to the contrary, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s fall sports season appears to be moving forward.

Allen Wells, WPSD-Paducah sports director, posted that an undisclosed source informed him that a special Kentucky Department of Education teleconference meeting set for Friday, was “aiming to overturn the decision to play” made by the KHSAA last week. Numerous media outlets followed by posting online articles that included this information on Wednesday night

On Thursday, however, Kentucky Education interim commissioner Kevin Brown indicated that Friday’s KDE meeting will cover health concerns over playing this fall, for which the board may pass along recommendations, but they will not cancel or postpone the season.

“I want to correct some misinformation that is being spread across social media and news outlets,” Brown said in a statement. “The Kentucky Board of Education will not be considering canceling sports seasons at its special meeting Aug. 28 ... The KHSAA is the designated agent of the KBE, and its authority will be respected, yet the board still has a moral obligation to review matters that could affect the health and safety of students. This is why I recommended the meeting take place. To do otherwise would place the KBE members in a position of ignoring their obligation to oversee the ‘management and control of the common schools and all programs operated in these schools.’ ”

Todd Harper, athletic director at Owensboro High School, said the confusion is a manifestation of the high-tech world we live in.

“Social media has made the spreading of information so quick and easy,” Harper said. “Sometimes bad information gets out there, perhaps unintentionally, and bad information travels much more quickly than good information.

“People don’t fact-check and just assume what they see is true. It becomes a rollercoaster ride, and you don’t know what’s coming around the next corner.”

Wednesday’s initial reports set off a firestorm on social media late in the evening and early Thursday, as confirmed in an updated article by the Herald-Leader in Lexington.

After a social media campaign Thursday morning encouraged people to email and call KDE offices and KBE board members, Toni Konz Tatman, the department’s interim chief communications officer clarified that canceling the KHSAA’s decision is not on Friday’s agenda and that their offices had been receiving threats.

“FYI: Cancelling or postponing the high school football season (or any other fall sport) is NOT on the agenda for tomorrow’s KBE meeting. There are a lot of rumors swirling around on this and we have received threatening phone calls this morning. Not OK,” Tatman tweeted.

On Aug. 20, the KHSAA Board of Directors voted to stay with its plan to begin soccer, volleyball, cross country and field hockey fall sports seasons on Sept. 7, with the first football games scheduled for Sept. 11.

On Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear, albeit with reservations, stated during his afternoon press conference on the COVID-19 pandemic that he would not overturn the KHSAA’s decision.

The KDE’s original agenda for Friday read as follows:

  • Discussion of the KHSAA board’s decision to begin high school interscholastic sports, and will include interaction with KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett.
  • Discussion of district concerns about the safety of high-contact fall sports, including representation by “local” superintendents.
  • Discussion of the Kentucky Department for Public Health COVID-19 guidance and recommendations, including interaction with DPH commissioner, Dr. Steven Stack.
  • Discussion and possible action to authorize the KDE to develop written communication to be issued to the KHSAA Board of Control by Kentucky Board of Education chair Lu Young urging additional consideration of alternate options for high-contact fall sports.

On Monday, mandatory practices began for Kentucky high school football teams, and players were allowed to wear helmets for the first time. Additionally, weekly practice times were increased from 6 hours to 7.5 hours.

With the exception of golf this fall, KHSAA competition has been shuttered since mid-March when the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in America halted sports activities at every level. The girls’ KHSAA state basketball tournament could not be completed, and the boys’ state basketball tournament did not even get under way.

Subsequently, KHSAA spring sports activities were canceled and thousands of Kentucky athletes lost their senior seasons.

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