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Sept 15 Update: New York, Wisconsin, Delaware, Colorado & Connecticut make changes
WIN’s High school wrestling and sports updates, Sept. 15
By Rob Sherrill, WIN High School Columnist
Editor’s Note: As high school athletic departments continue to deal with providing competitive opportunities in this current COVID-19 era, Rob Sherrill is keeping track what all states are doing in terms of scheduling wrestling and all prep sports this year.
Sherrill is keeping a special eye on what states are doing this fall and what eventual direction they go in terms of wrestling this winter. The following is an update of when states and the District of Columbia are holding sports competitions this fall:
- Starting all fall sports on schedule: 14
- Playing all fall sports in the fall, with late starts or reduced seasons: 19
- Playing some fall sports in the fall, football and/or other fall sports in the spring: 12
- Playing some fall sports in the fall, not playing football: 1
- Playing all sports after Jan. 1: 5
New York moves football to the spring
New York has joined the exodus to spring football.
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced on Sept. 8 that the football, volleyball and competitive cheer seasons will be moved from the fall to the spring. The three sports will contested as part of Fall Sports Season II, with practices beginning on Mar. 1, 2021.
The Empire State’s move puts the latest count at 15 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have moved their entire football seasons to the spring.
“We spent two days speaking with nearly 500 athletic directors across the state, and it’s clear that administering high-risk fall sports during the COVID-19 pandemic presents a significant challenge for our member schools,” NYSPHSAA executive director Dr. Robert Zayas said on the association’s web site.
Added NYSPHSAA president Julie Bergman: “The NYSPHSAA officers have determined it would be unrealistic to host football, volleyball and competitive cheer seasons this fall. This continues to be the most challenging situation educators have ever addressed. I, along with my fellow officers, believe the participation experiences for football, volleyball and competitive cheer athletes will be more beneficial in the spring than in the fall.”
To accommodate Fall Sports Season II, the start date for the spring sports season has been moved back more than a month from its original start date, from Mar. 15 to Apr. 19.
The state’s other fall sports, girls tennis, cross country, girls swimming, boys and girls soccer and field hockey, remain on track to begin on Sept. 21 for schools and sections that have determined it feasible to host interscholastic athletics.
Wisconsin sees significant movement to alternate fall season
Last month, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Board of Control voted to offer its 513 member schools the option of contesting the WIAA’s 10 fall sports either in their traditional fall season or a newly-created alternate fall season, to be held in the spring of 2021. The alternate fall season provides a seven-week window for schools unable to start or to complete at least 50 percent of a fall sport during its traditional season.
As of Sept. 1, the votes of member schools are in.
Although the majority of schools opted to remain in the fall across the board, one in three schools or more selected the alternate fall season to contest four sports. Those four include 11-man football, with nearly one-third of its 377 schools (120, or 32 percent) opting to play next spring.
Girls swimming and boys volleyball attracted the highest percentage of votes for the alternate season, with 37 percent of the schools with programs opting to skip the traditional fall season. The other sport receiving significant votes for the alternate fall season: boys soccer (36 percent).
The sports with the lowest percentage of schools selecting the alternate fall season were boys and girls cross country (both 18 percent) and 8-man football (19 percent). Interestingly, while 37 percent of schools elected to move their boys volleyball programs to the alternate fall season, only 25 percent will move their girls volleyball programs. Although girls volleyball programs are nearly eight times more common than boys programs in Wisconsin (474 for girls, 60 for boys), the season dichotomy likely reflects the availability of coaches.
Following are the complete results, by sport.
|Boys Cross Country||82% fall (349)||18% alternate fall (75)|
|Girls Cross Country||82% fall (347)||18% alternate fall (74)|
|11-Man Football||68% fall (257)||32% alternate fall (120)|
|8-Man Football||81% fall (38)||19% alternate fall (9)|
|Girls Golf||74% fall (129)||26% alternate fall (46)|
|Boys Soccer||64% fall (181)||36% alternate fall (101)|
|Girls Swimming||63% fall (88)||37% alternate fall (51)|
|Girls Tennis||73% fall (150)||27% alternate fall (55)|
|Boys Volleyball||63% fall (38)||37% alternate fall (22)|
|Girls Volleyball||75% fall (354)||25% alternate fall (120)|
University of Wisconsin won’t host fall state tournaments
Given COVID-19 restrictions in Dane County, Wisconsin, where the University of Wisconsin-Madison is located, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association and the university announced jointly on Sept. 9 that no WIAA fall state tournament will be conducted at a university facility.
Alternate sites must be found for the girls golf state meet, scheduled at University Ridge on Oct. 12-13, the girls tennis individual and team state meets at Nielsen Tennis Stadium on Oct. 15-17 and Oct. 23-24, respectively, and the girls swimming state meet at the Nicholas Recreation Center on Nov. 13-14.
In July, the WIAA Board of Control’s approval of a reduced 11-week fall football season ruled out conducting the state football finals at Camp Randall Stadium for the first time since 1982.
“Through our great relationship with the UW, we look forward to more normal times,” WIAA executive director Dave Anderson said.
Added John Horn, Chief of Staff to Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration at UW: “We regret, given the situation here in Dane County related to COVID-19, it will not be feasible to host the WIAA state tournaments this fall. We look forward to when the conditions of the pandemic improves and Dane County and campus policies change to allow larger, non-essential events.
“The WIAA events benefit not just our campus and greater Madison, but the entire state. Most importantly, they are once-in-a-lifetime experiences for student-athletes and their families.”
Delaware fall sports to start Sept. 28
The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Board of Directors voted on Sept. 9 to amend Emergency Regulation 1010, which grants permission for interscholastic athletics to occur with fall season sports starting on Sept. 28.
The amendment includes parameters for preseason practice dates and season length. If approved, fall sports would have a three-week preseason, and football would have a 25-day preseason beginning on Sept. 28. Cross country, volleyball, field hockey and boys soccer each would be permitted to have up to 12 contests, and football would play a seven-game schedule. Preseason for winter sports would begin on Nov. 30, and for spring sports on Mar. 1.
The state’s Board of Education must approve the amendment at its Sept. 17 meeting.
Could fall football return to Colorado?
On Aug. 4, the Colorado High School Activities Association announced a revised sports plan for the 2020-21 school year. That plan included the move of football to the spring.
Although the CHSAA Board of Directors affirmed the revised calendar on Sept. 9, a nudge from the governor’s office and local protests may result in the remaining fall sports, football and field hockey, returning to the fall season.
On Sept. 8, Gov. Jared Polis announced in a news conference alongside Denver Broncos Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Brittany Bowlen and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Innovation Response Team Lead Sarah Tuneberg that the Broncos would be allowing a limited number of fans in attendance at Empower Field at Mile High for the team’s Sept. 27 home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Polis then suggested, citing conversations with CHSAA staff, that he would endorse a return to fall high school football.
“We would be thrilled to work with CHSAA if their board chooses to move in this direction for the districts that are ready to go,” Polis said.
A day after the governor’s comments, the CHSAA Board of Directors voted unanimously against any adjustment to the calendar approved on Aug. 4.
Said CHSAA Board of Directors president Troy Baker, the athletic director at Buena Vista High School: “I commend the Board of Directors for reaching out to their respective districts and listening to our membership. The result of this action gave clear direction to the Board in support of the plan approved in August. Diverse return-to-learn models exist throughout our state, and they must not be undermined. Students have already integrated into non-traditional participation opportunities, and there are Title IX and gender representation issues around any reconsideration of the approved calendar. Our Board and state association stands united in this decision.”
The Board’s decision engendered “Just Let Us Play” protests, which took place in Highlands Ranch, Colorado Springs and Delta on Friday.
In a statement posted on the association’s web site on Saturday, CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green did not rule out the possibility of a season change.
“All parties are working diligently together towards a resolution…the approval of safety plans and variances must be secured from the Governor. Then, with the additional voices of CHSAA member administrators, decisions will be made by the CHSAA Board based on new information that was not available (on Sept. 8). This morning, modified safety implementation plans and variance requests with additions were resubmitted to the Governor’s team for their approval.
We are in a pandemic and the safety of the eco-system of sports means that the approval of resumption plans by our state and health officials must be scrutinized much different than weekend youth and recreation sports. We are an extension of 363 member schools. Our implementation cannot undermine the primary purpose for interscholastic (not club, recreation) participation which is Education First!”
Connecticut vets 7-on-7 football, proposes additional mitigation strategies
The ongoing battle between the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the state’s Department of Public Health has already pushed the state’s football and girls volleyball seasons to the brink.
The DPH has recommended a 7-on-7 option, similar to that adopted in neighboring Vermont starting Sept. 25, as a moderate risk activity, as well as possibly moving the sport to the spring, as nearly a third of the nation has done.
However, the CIAC is still holding out hope that 11-man football could start a six-game season on Oct. 1. In a Sept. 11 meeting, the CIAC presented the DPH with additional mitigating strategies designed to minimize droplet spread.
Those strategies include full face shields for all players while on the field; sideline limits of 45 players and 10 coaches, which would be reduced if social distancing could not be maintained; eliminating huddles, with more time allowed to signal plays; only one captain per team for the coin toss; and all players but the quarterback required to wear gloves at all times, which would be sanitized twice per game.
Complicating the adoption of 7-on-7 football: it places both Connecticut and Vermont in the unenviable position of no longer being “100 percent compliant” with National Federation of State High School Associations rules.
The CIAC addressed the subject on its web site as follows:
“We would like to clarify the NFHS’s position on 7-on-7 football, as DPH has consistently referenced NFHS guidance. In a communication to the CIAC on Aug. 27, the NFHS stated, ‘The NFHS Guidance for Returning to Activity document that was shared with state associations suggested three tiers of “risk” and examples of sports that might be placed in each category. 7-on-7 football was listed as an example in the “moderate risk” category. The NFHS was not suggesting that states should play 7-on-7 football instead of 11‐man football. It was only listed as an example of an activity that occurs in some states at the high school level. The NFHS does not write rules for 7-on-7 football, and there are no NFHS member state championships for 7-on-7 football. No other state association is playing 7-on-7 football as a championship program.’”
Now, to volleyball. On Aug. 28, the CIAC inquired whether the DPH would support the play of indoor volleyball where all participants wear masks at all times while in the gymnasium, stressing that only low‐risk activities would take place in volleyball prior to Sept. 21, as is the case with all other fall sports, and move to moderate risk competition on Oct. 1 if COVID metrics were to support such activities.
A Sept. 3 response from the DPH was less than specific, and less than promising:
“With regard to CIAC’s consideration of additional mitigation strategies for indoor girls volleyball that may lower their risks for person-to-person respiratory droplet spread, DPH has suggested that CIAC consider modifications to higher risk activities, and we continue to encourage such modifications.
“Absent such modifications, DPH is unlikely to support higher risk activities for the fall term. We would also recommend that CIAC consult with your sports medicine committee before implementing significant changes to how high school sports are played in our state so that any potential unintended consequences of those changes (including increased risk of injury) can be fully vetted prior to implementation.”