The WIAA executive staff has received a proposal to consider moving fall sports to the spring and shifting spring sports to the summer for the 2020-21 school year amid concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
WIAA communications director Todd Clark confirmed Thursday that the WIAA received the proposal, which came from school administrators in the southwest region of the state, and said it was appropriate for the WIAA Board of Control to study the proposal and respond.
The Board of Control is expected to add an official July meeting to address fall sports, which have practices scheduled to begin in August.
The WIAA has said previously it planned to conduct its fall sports. The Board of Control would have to vote to make any changes.
“We may anticipate the Board of Control scheduling an additional meeting to formally review any options that may alter the dates of the fall season schedule,” Clark wrote in an email. “It is appropriate for the Board to study and consider this proposal and provide a response.
“With fall sports practices scheduled to start in early August, an official business meeting will need to be scheduled and a decision made by the end of the month. We will notify our members when that meeting gets scheduled.”
It’s anticipated that WIAA staff and Board of Control members will have discussions next week and that the official business meeting then will be scheduled.
The proposal is for the 2020-21 school year only and would delay all fall sports until the spring of 2021, according to a WisSports.net report. The fall sports would begin in March and wrap up in late May; the spring sports would begin at the end of May and extend into July, according to a copy of the letter from the southwest Wisconsin schools’ administrators reviewed by the State Journal and the WisSports.net report.
The school year finishes at the end of June, so continuing into July likely would need a waiver or approval by schools.
If the fall sports were moved to the spring, the winter sports season would be the first to start, either on schedule or pushed back to January, 2021. The proposal could mean shortened seasons.
The Big Eight Conference athletic directors have a virtual meeting scheduled Tuesday and fall sports are expected to be addressed.
Madison Memorial athletic director Jeremy Schlitz, who is the Madison school district athletic director and secretary for the Big Eight athletic directors, said Thursday that the Big Eight wants “to make sure our decisions about sports are a reflection of the decisions made about school.”
It’s anticipated that specific timelines for decisions will come out of that meeting but that decisions will remain dependent on school models for the fall.
On Friday, the Madison school district announced it planned to start the 2020-21 school year completely online. That, however, doesn't affect athletics. Decisions about athletics in the Madison school district are pending decisions by the WIAA and Big Eight, Schlitz confirmed Friday.
The Big Eight wants a consistent approach for all its sports. It wants to take into account the implications for all sports in decision-making, Schlitz said.
For instance, there is great public interest in football and it is financially important, but football made up 13.31% percent of participation in all prep sports among boys and girls in 2018-19 in the state, according to National Federation of State High School Associations data.
The WIAA has received numerous and varied communications about fall sports – including urging the WIAA to play in the fall, to not play at all and to move fall sports.
There are three models that appear in play for high school athletics in the state.
One is to maintain the traditional setup, though the schedule for the various fall sports might need to be altered and what exactly the fall will look like is in question right now.
Already this week, for instance, Waunakee announced it was pushing back football practice, canceling its two non-conference football games in August and planning to play conference-only football games.
It's also possible some sports might have a better chance to play and some will face challenges -- such as football, boys soccer, girls swimming and boys and girls volleyball. In all the sports, the safety and health of the student-athletes, coaches, officials, workers and spectators are crucial.
A second model is the aforementioned proposal to move the fall sports to the spring and the spring sports into the summer.
A third is flipping fall and spring sports, which doesn't seem to have much traction at this point.
Clark told the State Journal on July 6 that the WIAA said it wasn’t considering moving any fall sports to the spring sports season or flipping sports seasons due to the coronavirus.
Clark said then that the WIAA has “entertained a number of scenarios and considerations” among many informal discussions during the pandemic.
“However, at this time, we have not spent any serious staff time and discussion on the executing a plan to flip seasons,” Clark wrote in a July 6 email. “It’s a topic that can always be discussed. Of course, anything considered will need Board of Control review and approval.”
The Wisconsin Athletic Directors Association board, which discussed potential season changes for the 2020-21 school year at its July 14 meeting, developed a pro/con list for three options: status quo/traditional, truncated shortened model and flipped seasons.
That list has been shared with athletic directors in the state, with a survey form provided to share thoughts and other ideas concerning the models (deadline of July 24).
Results from that survey are scheduled to be forwarded to the WIAA through the WADA liaison, Nathan Delany, the WADA president elect.
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