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Barbour County School System cancels athletics for upcoming school year

Barbour County School System cancels athletics for upcoming school year

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in this Feb. 24, 2020 photo, Barbour County's Willie Screws shoots a free throw during an AHSAA Class 2A semifinal game at Legacy Arena in Birmingham.

The Barbour County School System has canceled all athletics for the upcoming school year as a preventive measure to COVID-19.

Both Barbour County athletic director Joe Briggs and head football coach Chad Martin confirmed to the Dothan Eagle on Tuesday of the action.

“We have canceled the season and we will have not have athletics for the 2020-2021 school year,” Briggs said in a telephone interview.

When asked if that included the basketball season in the winter and the track/field season in the spring, Briggs replied, ‘Yes sir, absolutely.’”

Martin, in his second year with the Jaguar football program, said the school system had to put safety first.

“It is about keeping people safe first,” Martin said. “We all love football and we all want to get out there, play and do everything we can to do that, but you have to think not only of player safety, but if one of them catches it and they are asymptomatic they can bring it home and some of them live with grandparents.

“I see it from that perspective. It hurts to not be able to play, especially when I felt we were getting a lot better. It hurts not to play, but at the same time, you really and truly have to put safety first and the players’ and their families’ livelihood first.”

Martin said to his knowledge there have not be COVID-19 positive tests among Barbour County players or high school faculty.

“To my knowledge, nobody has any kind of problem directly,” Martin said. “I know we have had some teachers who have had family members who have caught it, but nothing has directly hit the faculty, the coaches or the students from what I know.”

Both Briggs and Martin said there has been no decision on academics for the upcoming year in Barbour County, though Briggs indicated a decision would likely come later this week.

Briggs said Dr. Matthew Alexander, Jr., the school system superintendent, made the decision to cancel athletics last week and informed Alabama High School Athletic Association Executive Director Steve Savarese shortly after that decision.

“It has been in the plans per our superintendent for a while,” Briggs said. “He had been watching the COVID cases over the summer and he put it in the writing and also made a phone call to Mr. Savarese with the Alabama High School Athletic Association on Thursday. He was issued an OK with no penalty for cancellation under a state and country-wide pandemic. There will be no cancellation penalty.”

Efforts to reach Dr. Alexander on Tuesday for comment were unsuccessful.

On Monday, Greene County and Sumter County in West Alabama announced it would postpone all athletics for nine weeks. Barbour County, however, elected to cancel all athletics, including its high-profile basketball program. The Jaguars boys basketball team was Class 2A state runner-up last year and was expected to challenge for the 1A state title this year.

Martin said he didn’t have a firm reason why the school system decided to make the decision for the winter and spring seasons too.

“I know they had gone back and forth on a few things,” Martin said. “I think they made the decision to go ahead and do it for safety and go ahead and knock it out all at once instead of waiting.”

Though AHSAA athletic teams could hold voluntary workouts on campus since June 1, Martin said Barbour County officials withheld athletes from the campus after a virus outbreak in the county in May. In fact, Martin said teachers have only been at the school once since state officials shutdown schools in mid-March – and that was to clean out their classrooms in May.

Since June 1, Martin said Jaguar coaches and players had been meeting virtually through Zoom and that the athletes had been working out on their own.

Martin said he had been busy on Tuesday contacting Jaguar players about the cancellation developments.

“They have been working out and they were excited, so they are bummed out about it, but they understand it,” Martin said.

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