GHSA cancels spring sports, applies for CARES Act loan to cover expenses

The Georgia High School Association canceled the remainder of spring sports season as expected Thursday, a day after Gov. Brian Kemp announced that he would sign an order closing K-12 public schools for the rest of the 2019-20 academic year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

GHSA executive director Robin Hines also told the GHSA’s board of trustees Thursday morning that the GHSA would apply for a loan under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to cover payroll, utilities and other offices expenses for the next two months.

“This loan, which is forgivable like a grant, ... is what the stimulus package is for, and it is really good news for us,’’ Hines told the trustees in an electronic video conference.

Hines didn’t cite the amount of of the loan. The GHSA brought in $5.67 million in revenue during the 2018-19 academic year, with about $3 million coming from state tournaments and playoffs. Most of the playoff revenue comes from football and basketball, which was played to completion, but state tournaments and meets in nine spring sports,  including baseball, soccer and track and field, no longer will be played.

Hines said it was with ‘’a heavy heart’’ that he announced the permanent end to 2020 spring sports, which were suspended three weeks ago.

‘’I especially want to commend the graduating seniors who have not only missed most of the spring season but prom, senior nights, awards ceremonies, possibly graduation, and spent the last few months away from their friends and classmates,’’ Hines said in a statement early Thursday afternoon. “Our seniors have a great deal to be proud of and while this is not the way any of us wanted it to end, I want to thank them for a job well-done.’’

The GHSA’s spring executive committee meeting scheduled for April 19-20 was put on hold.

The board of trustees discussed other contingencies for sports going forward but didn’t vote or make decisions. Hines told trustees that he’d received requests to waive physical exams for fall sports for athletes who had them on file for 2019-20. The trustees thought it not a safe idea.

Hines said he’d been asked by member schools whether the GHSA would suspend its eight-semester rule and allow seniors another season of eligibility in a way similar to the NCAA granting a red-shirt season. Hines and the board were opposed.

Hines was asked if schools could hold tryouts for fall sports such as volleyball, cheerleading and fastpitch softball as late as June if school activities were resumed by then. They’re typically allowed before school ends the previous academic year. Hines said that remained an option if the tryouts were completed before the first official day of fall practice in August.

Hines didn’t want to speculate on the return of sports or even summer activities.

“We don’t know when our kids will be able to train again, and I am concerned with when this might become a safety issue with sports like football if we are not able to come back soon enough,” he told the trustees.

The canceling of spring sports is unprecedented in GHSA history.

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