Even if high school football happens in Indiana on schedule, there will be more logistics to work out. Those logistics are of utmost concern to the new commissioner of the IHSAA Paul Neidig.
One of Neidig’s concerns is the number of fans that will attend each game. That has to be taken into account for social distancing and other coronavirus guidelines.
“There’s a possibility that there may be a waiver that local health departments can issue if it’s over 250 people and we’re going to be working to provide clarity to our schools on attendance numbers,” said Neidig in an interview with Greg Rakestraw (who was filling in for JMV) on 93.5 and 107.5 The Fan. “There are some interpretation things that we’ve got to get from the state, so we can provide some guidance.”
Neidig says working with Governor Eric Holcomb, the Department of Education and the Indiana State Health Department won’t be difficult.
“It’s one for all and all for one. If we have a question, we know we can reach out and get that answer. If they have a question of us and how we do things, they know they can reach out and get that answer from us,” said Neidig.
An idea that Neidig has heard mentioned by many people is pushing football to the spring and baseball to the fall. Neidig is very concerned about that scenario.
“If you take baseball and move it to the fall, kids and families that love baseball would lose two seasons in a row. I also worry about the health and safety aspect of football. If we contest the season in the spring and then let’s say we get done with our state championships in June. Then we would turn right around and start another football season 4-6 short weeks later, I’m not sure that’s best for kids and the safety of the sport,” said Neidig.
Given the unpredictability of coronavirus, Neidig understands it’s very possible some teams may play more regular-season games than others, but there will not be a minimum regular-season game requirement to play in the postseason.
“If a school is doing everything they can and the cards don’t layout or play their way, we’re going to be very flexible in allowing our member schools to play in our tournament. We have a great thing in this state where it’s an all-in tournament. Everybody that plays, gets to play in that tournament. I certainly am not going to affect that by a school or team falling one or two games short of a ‘minimum’ especially in a time like this,” said Neidig.
He says the IHSAA is ready for what he calls “starts and stops” along the way during the season.
“As we get into this fall season, we’re going to have some teams that don’t have any issues at all. We’re going to have some teams that are going to get shut down. At that point, we’ll cancel the contest. We’ll declare it a ‘no contest’ and hope everybody gets healthy and back to play as soon as possible,” says Neidig.
Neidig has been with the IHSAA since 2017, as an assistant commissioner, overseeing the sports of cross country, track and field, and boys basketball.