The Alabama High School Athletic Association revealed a revamped postseason schedule on Thursday afternoon. The association postponed its regularly scheduled program of games, including the state track meets and baseball, soccer, softball and golf playoffs on Wednesday night.
That's when three school systems in the Huntsville area were forced to close immediately because of the current swine influenza outbreak.
For now, play is set to resume on Tuesday. Association officials will continue to consult with its Medical Advisory Board — which is in direct contact with the state Department of Public Health — throughout the delay.
"Carrying out this schedule will be determined Monday morning at 9 a.m. in a conference call with our medical advisory board," AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said.
"There's still a chance there could be further postponements. AHSAA officials will take a look at data compiled during the weekend. Further cases of the virus — described by the Department of Pubic Health as a respiratory infection caused by influenza type-A viruses that often give pigs the flu — could result in more postponements."
One of the biggest impacts might be with the state baseball playoffs. They are set up to run each weekend for five weeks, but if the tentative schedule holds, teams will now play the third round on Tuesday and Wednesday, while the semifinals will remain as originally scheduled on Friday and Saturday. That means teams could play as many as six games next week.
"We'll deal with what we've got to deal with," Ranburne coach Bart Young said. "Everyone's in the same boat. You just go on with it. It puts you in a bind preparation-wise and pitching-wise, and it puts parents in a bind.
"I don't think most folks realize how much scouting and calling other coaches goes on at this point. During the season, it doesn't happen a lot, but in the playoffs, you're playing people you don't normally play, so scouting becomes a big thing."
The state track meet was originally set to begin today and run through Saturday, with the Class 1A-3A meet in Troy and the Class 4A-6A meet in Gulf Shores. Now, the two meets will take place in Gulf Shores. The Class1A-3A meet will be next Thursday and Friday, while the 4A-6A will meet will be Friday and Saturday.
The postponement also caused a hardship for softball and soccer teams. The soccer teams were in their second round, but will now play on Tuesday. Likewise, softball teams, who were in area play, will have to shift their tournaments back to Tuesday.
"At this point, when you get ready to play, they're fired up and ready," Saks softball coach Randy Law said. "It's just a little disappointing.
"I've had different coaches call me, wanting to know what's going on. This is definitely unique. It's never happened before. It makes sense, and you have to live with it, but it is disappointing."
Law said he changed up his practice schedule on Thursday to accommodate having more time before the tournament.
"We did a lot of hitting and fielding drills, made games out of it," Law said. "We had two good days of practice on Tuesday and Wednesday and were ready to play. We kind of cut back."
Piedmont golf coach Harley Lamey said the postponement didn't affect his team much because they were slated to play their sub-state tournament on Tuesday, regardless.
"It's more time for us to practice and work on things," said Lamey, who had planned to drive Piedmont's track competitors to Troy on the bus. "I was monitoring it all day. Whatever coach Savarese does, I know he's trying to do the best for the kids. I have full confidence in what he does, that he's thought it through and will do what's best."
Along with the obvious health concerns, the postponement has triggered a domino effect among schools within The Star's coverage area, which were set to compete this weekend and move along with their spring sports schedules.
Anniston athletic director Alex Wilson said the school took what precautionary measures it could and wiped down the campus's doors and door handles. Wilson heads up the Bulldogs' football and boys' track teams.
The track team qualified about a dozen athletes for the state tournament. They were set to leave for Gulf Shores on Thursday. Instead, the Bulldogs took the day off. They'll pick back up their normal practice schedule, taking to the track at Chink Lott Memorial Stadium or Donoho on Friday and meeting up at Jacksonville State University's track on Saturday.
"Everybody's concerned about it," Wilson said. "But it's one of those things. What can you do? We're going to practice (today). I was supposed to be on the beach by now. I'm not going to punish myself anymore by thinking about it."
The postponements will also force the Bulldogs to delay the beginning of spring football practice until the Monday following the state track meet, Wilson said.
Christa Turner contributed to this story. Revised schedule
This is the tentative revised AHSAA schedule:
Baseball — Third round series will be played Tuesday-Wednesday, with semifinals remaining May 8-9 and finals on May 12-15.
Softball — Area tournaments will resume or be rescheduled for Tuesday, with the regional tournament (May 8-9) and state tournament (May 14-16) staying as scheduled.
Track & field — All classes will meet at Gulf Shores with 1A-3A on Thursday-Friday (May 7-8) and 4A-6A on Friday-Saturday (May 8-9).
Golf — All sub-state tournaments will be played on Tuesday, with the state tournament still set for May 11-12.
Soccer — Second round games will be played on Tuesday, with the state tournament remaining May 8-9.