Pandemic Impact

Missouri state champion coach forced to choose between fall and spring football

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches

It seems like the vocal majority of coaches want to push forward with high school football this fall. Many coaches are posting to social media to share their opinions, pointing to the safe way teams have been able to start the fall season in other states.

The state of Missouri is leaving it up to individual school districts to choose if their respective schools will play in the fall or spring season. Teams that start in the fall will play their opening games this Friday.

Missouri State Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame coach Mark Thomas of Odessa High joined FNF Coaches for a podcast and said the fall-spring debate was not as clear cut as some coaches are making it. Here’s an excerpt from the conversation with Coach Thomas.

How do you feel about starting the season on Friday night?

“In Missouri, we have the option of moving the fall sports season to the spring. Our state association does not want to mandate anything, so they’re basically leaving it up to individual school districts. That will make a mess of things in Missouri, as far as I’m concerned.”

How did you make the decision?

“When I shared it with my team, one of the first questions from a senior was, ‘Well, what will we do about the playoffs, Coach?’ The answer from the state association is there will be a fall playoff and a spring playoff. We don’t know what it will look like. Supposedly, there will be a playoff system for the fall and spring.”

What did most coaches in the state decide to do?

“Our state is divided. The East side of the state, in the St. Louis area, is opting out and playing this spring. The West side of the state, in the Kansas City area, voted to play this fall. The largest conference in the state, the Suburban Conference, voted 27-0 in favor of playing this fall. Our state is pretty divided in the metropolitan areas. Historically, there’s always been a natural rivalry between St. Louis area schools and Kansas City area schools. Which region has the best football? We won’t be able to determine that this year because we’re playing in different seasons.”

I didn’t realize it was so split. I really only see the coaches who want to play express their opinions on Twitter. Which way were you leaning?

“When I found out about choosing between the fall and spring, I was leaning toward moving it to the spring because I felt that gave us the best chance to play an entire season. We’ve been stopped four times over the summer, and I still feel to a certain degree that if we try to play this fall, there will be shutdowns. Even if it’s not us, it could be the teams we’re playing and then we’ll lose ballgames. That’s going to be unfortunate. From my standpoint, it’s the kids who lose out on it, particularly the seniors. I don’t want to see them miss out.”

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk