The fall prep sports season is on for now. The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Association (WIAA) approved the start of the fall season with a delayed start due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WIAA Board of Control considered a number of season schedule models and resolved to maintain fall interscholastic opportunities with a delayed start, as well as an alternate opportunity for schools unable to start and administer the traditional fall season, at a recent virtual special meeting.
In an 8-3 decision, the Board approved conducting the fall sports season with a delayed start. The low risk sports like girls golf, girls tennis, girls swimming and diving, and boys and girls cross country will be permitted to begin practice with prescribed acclimatization protocol Monday, Aug. 17. The earliest practice date for the sports of football, boys soccer, and boys and girls volleyball is Monday, Sept. 7.
“Because of the Board’s action, while they can’t make any guarantees that things will work out as we plan them, they have given us the opportunity to at least hope and work in that direction,” WIAA Executive Director Dave Anderson said. “We understand this decision will make some happy and others disappointed, but we will do our best to deliver to our membership what they have directed us to do.”
Anderson said his recommendation to the board was to move forward with fall sports in some capacity the best they can.
“If I had the magic wand, what I would propose is for those of our members that are available to do so, let’s go with the best we can. For those that aren’t available to do so, let’s go with a different plan; what I’m advocating for is as much flexibility and as much creativity, and direct staff to build implemented seasons that might occur at different times of the year,” he said.
The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association voted earlier in the week to start their season no earlier than Sept. 1, instead of the original date of Aug. 3, while having a six-game regular season and only three weeks of playoffs.
Anderson said 10 of the 11 Midwest states, with Illinois being the exception, are moving forward with fall sports as planned.
Meanwhile, whether or not there will be state tournaments at the end of the fall season has yet to be determined.
The WIAA needs to go as far as it can to provide opportunities and have a “culminating event,” according to Anderson. Depending on circumstances, they may need to look at regional championships or some other culminating event as opposed to state tournaments.
Board member Dr. Wayne Labecki clarified that their risk levels in guidance put out previously are not meant to correlate directly with the risk levels assigned by State Department of Health. He indicates the schools should be working with local health experts to determine what their environmental risk is. Labecki says it’s more important to coaches that there is an opportunity for kids to get back together; tournaments are a low priority in that regard.
The earliest dates for the first competitions are Aug. 20 for girls golf, Aug. 21 for girls tennis, Aug. 25 for cross country, and girls swimming and diving. The earliest permissible date for the first boys soccer, and boys and girls volleyball contests are Sept. 15, and the first possible football game may be scheduled Wednesday, Sept. 23, if the first practice is conducted on Sept. 7.
Another component of the Board’s decision provides schools, which are unable to start fall sports in 2020, an opportunity in the spring to conduct their fall seasons. The Board directed the executive staff to develop details and calendars for an alternative three-sport season in the second semester of the 2020-21 school year to be presented at a later date. The alternate three-sport season plan was derived from a proposal submitted to the WIAA executive staff by school district administrators from the southwest area of the state.
The Board also approved an executive office social media initiative to promote and encourage safe practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The #TeamUpToBeatCOVID campaign will launch this week in efforts to enhance the likelihood of returning to school and school activities by following safe practices. The WIAA encourages school and public involvement and interaction in the campaign on all Facebook, Instagram and Twitter platforms.
The Board was informed of a staff initiative to enhance the “Games Wanted” form on the WIAA website to provide schools with a convenient, comprehensive and user-friendly method of locating opponents and dates available due to postponements and cancellations.