Hurricane football coach Jeremy Taylor, like a lot of coaches and teachers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in West Virginia, doesn’t want to make a big fuss. But he’d like to know how it’s OK that sports can go on for athletes at some levels in certain parts of the state but not for others in the same area.
And he’s not even talking about the current orange status for Putnam County in the state’s COVID-19 risk factor map that determines classes and school activities. That status prevents Putnam schools from playing games this week, but its teams can still practice. There are nine counties that presently can’t hold classes or games, including Putnam, Kanawha (orange) and Monongalia (red, highest risk).
“How is it safe enough for WVU to host Eastern Kentucky,’’ Taylor said of Saturday’s football opener for the Mountaineers, “but not safe enough for University [High] to play?’’
Taylor also points out that while hundreds of high school athletes are sidelined this week in Putnam, Kanawha and other counties and can’t participate in Secondary School Activities Commission events, many young athletes in those same communities are free to venture out of state to compete in travel sports. Of course, the jurisdiction is different, but the activities are largely the same.
“Baseball and soccer, every weekend they go outside the state for travel ball,’’ Taylor said, “yet we can’t play Poca on Friday night. I have a lot of friends who are [youth sports] coaches, and they’re going all over the place. Some are going to Charlotte for soccer. Nobody’s social distancing there, everybody’s posting pictures, but we’re paying the price in Kanawha and Putnam and, very soon probably, Cabell counties.
“It’s not an even playing field. Travel sports can do whatever they want without any rules and we can practice, but only for so long. We just need some consistency. Make it fair for everyone. Either there’s sports or there’s none. [Gov. Jim Justice] has the power to shut schools or sports down, so he can do that, too.’’
Taylor doesn’t intend to berate the policies of Justice or state health officials. He just wants some clarity as to how some sports are allowed and others aren’t.
“I don’t put a lot of things on social media and go crazy and all that stuff,’’ Taylor said. “I’m not going to go on a crusade and go yell at the governor. He’s going to do what’s best for everyone, even if he makes a lot of people mad, like I do. He’s doing the best he can and he really cares for the kids. It’s just bad that we’re in this situation altogether.’’
Taylor and Justice seem to be on the same page in some respects. In his COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, Justice made mention of a youth baseball tournament held over the holiday weekend at Nitro High School, one with out-of-state teams that apparently had the blessing of Kanawha County health officials.
“The optics of that are terrible,’’ Justice said, “and I don’t know if we ought to be doing that. Honestly, it doesn’t make any sense to me, but it wasn’t my call.’’