Riverside becomes first school in Georgia to cancel fall sports

On Thursday evening, Riverside Military Academy became the first school in the state to announce that it would be canceling its fall sports seasons next school year.

The all boys boarding school in Gainesville participates in cross country and football during the fall and sited that the GHSA’s ongoing ban of interscholastic athletics has forced their hand in making the decision. The announcement, however, came just one day after GHSA Executive Director Robin Hines spoke in an interview that he was remaining hopeful for sports activities to return in early June despite the potential challenges of doing so.

“What happens tomorrow if there’s a huge spike in COVID cases? We’re certainly not going to open up,” explained Hines. “We can’t make a decision (to resume sports) based on information we don’t have yet. We’re trying to be ready for every scenario. We want to start as quickly as we can if it’s safe and within what the governor is saying. We’re gathering information from many sources, from the national (high school) federation to our sports-medicine advisory committee. If we feel it’s safe enough to have a measured return to sports activities, that’s what we’ll do.” 

Because Riverside Military is a private school and is not represented within a broader school district, grants the school the ability to make this decision exclusively, although clearly the cancellation of Riverside’s fall sports season would also impact the Eagles’ formerly scheduled opponents and the rest of Region 8-AA if those teams are to find a way to play this fall. On the other hand, the basis of Riverside’s decision to cancel its fall sports seasons largely indicates that the winter and spring sports seasons also are in jeopardy of being played if the ongoing situation with COVID-19 does not dramatically shift by a certain point this fall.

“The Georgia High School Association governs interscholastic athletics (minus JROTC competitions),” read Thursday’s announcement. “Currently, the GHSA has banned interscholastic athletics indefinitely (with no indication of when that may change) because of the pandemic. Having a safe and a healthy fall season requires substantial planning, writing of contracts, and early equipment purchases all of which would be binding even if the season remains banned by GHSA.

“Accordingly, fall interscholastic athletics at RMA are canceled for the 2020-21 academic year. We are planning for limited winter and spring sports in anticipation that the ban will ease at a point that provides enough time for us to execute appropriately. However, similar to the fall season, if the GHSA continues its ban beyond our winter/spring decision points, those seasons may be canceled as well.

“We plan to move forward with a robust schedule of intramural competition which will give cadets at the middle and high school levels the opportunity to participate in sports, though at an intramural level.”

It is the first time since 1916, during World War I, that fall sports won’t be played at the school.

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