GREENSBORO — Leigh Hebbard is “really optimistic that there will be some version of a fall season” for high schools, but the Guilford County Schools athletics director says that “everyone’s aware that if you do football without fans, you have no (athletics) program.”
High school athletics in North Carolina were shut down March 13 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. GCS gave its high schools approval Wednesday to resume workouts July 6 with a fairly stringent set of guidelines.
The ultimate goal is to be able to hold athletics contests in the fall, with the season scheduled to start the week of Aug. 17.
“We’re all really optimistic that there will be some version of a fall season,” Hebbard said today, “but I don’t know that anyone could sit here right now and give you even a rough picture of what that might look like.”
Unless social distancing guidelines are lifted by state government officials, games would have to be held with fewer or no fans in attendance.
“You take some of our larger contests, like a Page-Grimsley football game,” Hebbard said, “and if all of a sudden you can only have let’s say 30 percent (of capacity), that’s a financial problem.”
Football in particular presents challenges on and off the field, but “not having a season would be my biggest concern,” Dudley coach Steven Davis said. “If you think about it, football is one of those sports where you’re either all in or all out, especially with COVID-19. There’s no way you can avoid being close to another person.”
And it’s a sport that is important financially to high schools because of the revenue it generates from admissions, concessions and sponsorships, as well as the fundraising for other sports and extracurricular activities that occur at games.
“That’s what drives the financial engine of an athletics program, along with basketball,” Hebbard said. “You play those with no fans and you have no money to run your program and you have some real problems.”