By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has said his state will need to get to Phase 3 in order to start the high school football season. At the moment, the LHSAA is tentatively set to kick off an eight-game season on Oct. 8. The worst-case scenario is a six-game regular season if the state can not move to Phase 3 in the near future.
Governor Edwards announced today on a radio show that Phase 2 will be extended beyond its original expiration date of Aug. 28.
One coach who is not happy about this state of affairs is Many High School coach Jess Curtis. He tweeted his displeasure at the Governor on Aug. 21. The tweet has since received plenty of support in the coaching community.
Its Friday night and everybody in the south is playing🏈.We have🏈being played 15 miles to the west of us in Texas.Its time @LouisianaGov to phase up so our young men across the state can make those special memories.The same ones you talked about in your campaign ads.#LetUsPlay
— Jess Curtis (@coach_jcurtis) August 22, 2020
Curtis joined FNF Coaches this afternoon to share his thoughts.
What made you decide to address your concerns over Twitter?
“Our Governor just decided to keep us in Phase 2 for now. Our state’s going crazy right now. I figured it would happen, and that’s why I was proactive.”
I saw that Louisiana is in the path of a hurricane approaching land in the Gulf of Mexico. Is that a factor as well?
“That might be part of the deal. I felt this way even before the hurricane. The Governor wants to prolong this, and it’s a frustrating thing. Everyone in the South is playing besides us. All states are moving forward, and we’re the only state in the South not playing.”
Why is that? Why is Louisiana being treated any differently than other states?
“Our numbers have been going down. We have under 1,000 people hospitalized in the state. It stinks right now. The schools, coaches and players have all been following the guidelines. There haven’t been many outbreaks. We’re following the protocol, and it’s working. I think we should be rewarded and up the ante. We’re already behind. We lost a jamboree and a scrimmage as well as the first two games of the year. That’s wrong any way you slice it.”
Have you heard of any instances of the virus spreading through football workouts?
“We’ve heard that most of the problems stem from a kid getting it somewhere else. Then they quarantine, so there’s very little spread happening. The protocol is tough. Our school has a sanitizing solution and we’re spraying bags and equipment in between lifts. It’s the safest place to be.”
What other safety measures do you have in place?
“We meet them at the door for a temperature screening, ask questions about whether they’ve had a fever, whether they felt sick the day before, whether they have a sore throat. They’re used to it. The protocol is smooth. As a coach in Louisiana, that’s what’s frustrating. We follow the protocol to a ‘T’ and see the results. Then we keep getting smashed in the face. We should be playing. It’s tough. We’re 15 miles from Texas, and they’re playing with bigger schools. It makes no sense.”
What concerns you the most about NOT playing?
“A little bit of everything. We talk about the kids; they’ve lost a lot. They lost spring sports. They lost school in the spring. Most schools in Louisiana are doing a hybrid model with two days in-person and two days virtual. The only nuggets they have are the extracurricular activities. I worry about kids’ mindsets. I want them back out there. The way we have it now, we’ll start with our Week 3 game. The longer we’re held in check, the longer we slide this thing back. The longer it takes, the more they lose. That’s what people don’t understand. The kids only get four years. I’ll be here — hopefully — several more years than that. We can take care of them. That’s what I’m saying. We can take care of the kids, and that’s what families want.”
Did you receive any push-back from your school administration when you went public with your concerns?
“Our administration has been very positive. I’m going to always take a tactful approach. As long as we handle it the right way, I’ve got their back and they’ve got mine. They understand what’s at stake for the kids as well. I’m never going to cross the line. I just want to bring attention to the fact that coaches and players feel this way. What I put on Twitter is what I’m hearing from the kids. People need to read it and see it. That’s who’s losing out. The coaches will be back. I know what football meant for me, and that’s why I’m coaching.”
Are you opposed to pushing the season to the spring so you can play a full schedule?
“I think we’ve closed that door in Louisiana. They may slide it back further into the winter. But we’re landlocked. This is a last-ditch effort. I just want the kids to play. We’re roped into the fall/winter area. We’ve got the ball rolling. I’m hearing from so many coaches that feel the same way. Today’s been really good that way.”