Fiction became reality on Tuesday afternoon, when Kentucky High School Athletics Association commissioner Julian Tackett announced in a written letter the cancellation of the 2019-20 spring sports season in the Commonwealth.
The KHSAA had been observing a rolling postponement, beginning with the stall of the 2020 KHSAA Sweet 16 Basketball Championships in Lexington. But even those are off the table now, alongside any hopes of completing baseball, softball, tennis, track & field, fishing, archery and e-Sports title schedules.
“We have until this point purposely taken a measured approach to the resumption of our basketball events and consideration of the ending of the spring seasons for sports and sport-activities,” Tackett wrote. “We have accepted continual guidance from a variety of sources, and have steadfastly held on to hope that the great student-athletes who represent their schools through a variety of teams would have an opportunity to compete this season.
“This is without question the most challenging period I have seen or faced in 36 years in this office. This impacts so many people, but in the end, is in the best interest of public health. We have been especially concerned with the graduating class of 2020: those seniors who put so much into their athletic participation opportunities hoping for one last time to shine before the home crowds or at postseason events. We know for the vast majority of them, their future plans are already laid out, with college and career final preparation as their next chapter. We are also keenly aware that, per almost all metrics, 94% of the students who participate in high school sports and sport-activities are involved in their last organized competition…as the lion’s share of participants will not play beyond this level.
“In the end, however, the health and safety of all individuals, participants, coaches, and spectators, is much more important than the various interscholastic activities.”
Tackett’s announcement, a decision from a governing body, came 24 hours following Monday’s address with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, in which he strongly order schools to remain closed through the rest of the 2019-20 academic year, and to move large gatherings such as promenade and baccalaureate to digital, distanced functions due to the potential spread of the coronavirus.
“There is no doubt that people will second-guess this recommendation and decision as well as all others made during this pandemic and its fallout,” he further noted. “I would encourage anyone who objects or has drawn their own conclusions to carefully review a couple of well-written articles (from the Indianapolis Star) about incidents that happened at the start of this situation. Not in our state, but just north of us.
“I realize there seems to be some thinking in limited circles about specific groups being the only ones impacted or other rationalization for us resuming early (too early). These articles (from the Indianapolis Star) carefully break down an event similar to what we would see in our schools. I doubt that the objectors regarding the cancellation of sports will finish reading without a somewhat revised opinion.”
A dead period, in which coaches have limited contact with teams, also remains in effect.
Health concerns were, and still are, legitimate.
But to Caldwell County softball coach David Choate, the logistics of declaring a Second Region softball champion — then shuttling off to John Cropp Field in Lexington for any sort of title matchup — might’ve been too difficult of a squeeze.
Time was running short.
“I think fitting in 12 games was too big of a risk,” he said. “And I don’t think you’d get the true identity of a team, even if you did play.”
However, this notion didn’t mean he, and so many, many others, wasn’t eager for an opportunity.
“I would’ve loved to have just played one game,” he added. “Just to get our seniors out on the new field. Some of them may never play again. And I had some who were super competitive, who had been waiting for an opportunity.”
Like many teams across the country, the Lady Tigers will likely try to do something to honor their Class of 2020 in a special way.
Until then, it’s home projects, non-traditional school work and the wishful thinking of what could’ve been keeping cabin fever at bay.
“My wife’s been happy to see all the upgrades around the house,” he laughed. “But truthfully, I think she’d like to be out at the ballpark, too.”
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