It wasn’t the news for which many hoped.
But on Thursday afternoon following a statewide conference call with school superintendents, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear — on advice from federal and state health agencies — informed those officials that he has directed the Kentucky High School Athletic Association to extend its spring sports calendar hiatus until no earlier than May 1.
Courier-Journal high school sports and horse racing reporter Jason Frakes further confirmed the news, stating on his Twitter account (@kyhighs): “Per the KHSAA, the current dead period for high school sports extends to May 1, as well.”
The recommendations come after, earlier this week, Beshear and his staff noted 114 new cases and seven new deaths across Kentucky that could be attributed to the virus COVID-19 (“coronavirus”). And as of 7:15 p.m. Thursday night, more than 821 Kentuckians throughout 78 of the 120 counties had tested positive for the virus (out of ~17,000 administered tests), with more than 30 deaths statewide (source: Lexington Herald-Leader).
Three weeks ago, the early spread of what would later be determined a full-blown pandemic forced the postponement of what remained of the KHSAA Sweet 16 Girls state basketball tournament, as well as the entirety of the KHSAA Sweet 16 Boys tourney at Rupp Arena in Lexington.
The KHSAA followed with a hastily-instituted dead period, not unlike the annual stoppage from the last week of June through the first week of July — in that it bars schools from holding official team activities on school property.
But this time around, coaches were permitted limited contact with their student-athletes.
That was originally to last until April 12.
Then, last week, the state’s high school athletics governing body canceled the spring e-sports season, while remaining non-committal on the possible resumption of the basketball state tournaments and the start of the spring sports season.
“I know that our coaches (have been in contact) — and I can speak for baseball (and coach Bradley Stallins), who’s been in touch with the baseball players — but it’s really extremely hard to do much of anything right now,” noted Caldwell County athletic director Kim Farmer. “Because you can’t encourage (athletes) to do much of anything right now to get together. Anything they do has to be done on their own. It’s just really hard, you know.”
While Kentucky and its natives continue to hold out hope for even the slimmest of high school sports seasons, at least two surrounding states have already put its spring schedules to bed. The governing body of Illinois, two weeks ago, formally canceled what was left of its winter state tournaments, including basketball. And Indiana, on Thursday afternoon, put a formal end to its athletic school year.
Currently, there is no indication that the KHSAA is prepared to follow suit for either one. Late Thursday afternoon, the KHSAA — when asked for comment — referred to an earlier statement emphasizing “the postponement, not cancellation, of the basketball tournaments and spring sports.”
If there is any indication whatsoever that an abbreviated spring season will be in play, Farmer attests her school — among many others across the commonwealth — will be as prepared as possible.
“We would like a little bit of practice time ahead, to get ready for the season,” she added. “But I can speak for all of our kids and say that if (the KHSAA) were to have any part of a season, they would be ready to play. And our kids would put in the time, our coaches would put in the time, and we have everything in place and ready to go. We’ve just got to be given the okay to go.”
In the mean time, student-athletes are to remain in direction with state executive order and Beshear’s strong encouragement to avoid large groups, maintain a safe social distance of no less than six feet, consistently wash hands, and refrain from touching one’s nose, eyes or mouth — in hopes of curbing the spread of the virus.
And coaches clearly must do the same.
“Caldwell County High School hopes that its coaches are in communication with their kids,” Farmer added. “Making sure that needs are met, that their mental state of mind is good, and are encouraging kids to reach out if they need something while keeping up their schoolwork online through ‘non-traditional instruction.’ ”