Saturday, December 2, 2023

High school football in 50 states


There may be no high school football this fall in Illinois or Maryland, but more than 30 states are putting teams on the gridiron before October, although several states have pushed back the actual first week of Friday night lights. The question is: Will it last?

High School Football Start Dates

Alabama – unchanged – August 21
Alaska – unchanged – August 20
Arizona – pushed back 6 weeks – September 30 (originally August 19)
Arkansas – pushed back 1 week – August 28 (originally August 23)
California – not in fall (August 21) – January 8
Colorado – not in fall (August 27) – February 22
Connecticut – not in fall (September 10) – TBD
Delaware – not in fall (September 11) – TBD
Florida – pushed back 2 weeks – September 4 (originally August 20)
Georgia – pushed back 2 weeks – September 4 (originally August 20)
Hawaii – not in fall (September 4) – TBD
Idaho – unchanged – August 27
Illinois – not in fall (August 28) – February 15
Indiana – unchanged – August 20
Iowa – unchanged – August 27
Kansas – unchanged – September 4
Kentucky – pushed back 3 weeks – September 11 (originally August 20)
Louisiana – pushed back 5 weeks – October 8 (originally September 4)
Maine – pushed back 2 weeks – September 18 (originally September 4)
Maryland – not in fall (September 4) – March 15
Massachusetts – not in fall (August 17) – February 22
Michigan – pushed back 3 weeks – September 17 (originally August 27)
Minnesota – not in fall (August 28) – TBD
Mississippi – pushed back 1 week – September 4 (originally August 28)
Missouri – unchanged – August 28
Montana – unchanged – August 27
Nebraska – unchanged – August 27
Nevada – not in fall (August 14) – March 5
New Hampshire – unchanged – September 4
New Jersey – pushed back 5 weeks – October 2 (originally August 28)
New Mexico – not in fall (August 17) – March 4
New York – pushed back 4 weeks – September 21 (originally August 24)
North Carolina – not in fall (August 20) – February 26
North Dakota – unchanged – August 20
Ohio – unchanged – August 28
Oklahoma – unchanged – August 28
Oregon – not in fall (September 4) – March 8
Pennsylvania – pushed back 2 weeks – September 11 (originally August 28)
Rhode Island – not in fall (September 11) – TBD
South Carolina – pushed back 5 weeks – September 25 (originally August 20)
South Dakota – unchanged – August 20
Tennessee – unchanged – August 20
Texas – unchanged except 6A & 5A – August 27 (6A, 5A: September 24)
Utah – unchanged – August 13
Vermont – not in fall (August 28) – TBD
Virginia – not in fall (August 28) – March 1
Washington – not in fall (September 4) – March 8
West Virginia – pushed back 1 week – September 3 (originally August 24)
Wisconsin – pushed back 5 weeks – September 23 (originally August 20)
Wyoming – unchanged – August 27

In one of those states, Ohio, it was apparently a close game as the Bears from North Royalton High School traveled to Medina to play the Hornets at Highland High School. Final score: North Royalton 41, Highland 40.

Neither team figures high in the national rankings, but the game was among the closest matches last night in Week 2 of high school football in the Buckeye State.

Indeed, high schools in more than half the states are playing football during the pandemic, according to the high school athletic associations and local newspapers in those states. That doesn’t mean everyone’s in favor of it, though, including medical specialists for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which has listed football as one of the “high risk” sports for transmitting COVID-19.

Mark Rose is the head football coach at Russell County High School in the southeastern part of Alabama. He’s good, too, having a pedigree that saw him playing for the legendary coach Pat Dye at Auburn. He’s been a high school head coach for 23 years.

“I mean it’s flat out child exploitation,” NPR quoted him as saying about Alabama high schools fielding football teams this fall. “Of course kids want to play. But we are charged to protect them. [With] the NCAA, any school that can’t test in football or any high-risk contact sport once per week, is shut down completely; we have no testing policy. Our testing policy is wait ’til somebody gets real sick and then go tell the parents to test them.”

His feeling that “of course kids want to play” is confirmed in a student news report out of southern Indiana, where football teams are also on the field this fall.

“During times of national crisis, America needs sports, and they are there for us,” opines Lizzie Allen in The Optimist, the student newspaper at Bloomington High School (football season preview). “We need them to provide an escape, to provide unity, to provide hope. That’s just as true today as it has been during past times of crisis.”


Unfortunately, any need we have for an escape or even any social activity, including learning, which is a very social activity, does not negate the fact that our lives today are being dictated by a virus that, so far, we cannot defeat, either by treatment or by vaccine. We may not have much data about how the virus is transmitted during a football game, but we have plenty of data that, when analyzed, shows tackle football to be a very high-risk activity that will provide ample opportunity for the virus to spread from one household to another and from one community to another.

Mr Rose had to forfeit a game, NPR reported, because one of his athletes tested positive for COVID-19 and had put about two dozen others at risk. The season was shut down, and it might be in other schools and states as well, I suppose, depending on the policies in those states for continuation of play during the pandemic.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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