WIAA proposes moving football to spring, shortening high school sports seasons to address COVID-19 concerns

Mick Hoffman

Calling it a “fluid situation, that could change at any time,” Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Director Mick Hoffman and the executive board rolled out their modified plan for Washington State high school sports for the 2020-21 academic year.

Due to the ongoing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, the plan shortens each sports season, expands seasons from three to four, and moves moderate and high-risk sports — football, volleyball and girls soccer — to the spring, playing in what they are calling WIAA Season 3.

“In a state that is seeing a spike of positive tests for the coronavirus, it’s all still up in the air,” Hoffman warned. “When you look at the dates, those are definitely written in pencil.”

“It’s possible that those sports could be pushed into spring and no sports are played in Washington before January if the virus is still spiking across the state,” added Executive Board PresidentGreg Whitmore.

“We know those sports are in peril, too,” Whitmore said on a Zoom call Tuesday evening with members of the media. “A lot of things have to happen in our favor to have those happen.”

The WIAA Executive Board and planning committees are working under the Return to Activity Guidelines that have been created by the NFHS (National Federation of High Schools), the Washington State Board of Health, the Governor’s office, and WIAA committees made up of coaches, athletic directors, students, officials and local health professionals.

Following are the tentative sports and season breakdowns: (You can see the calendar grid HERE )

WIAA Season 1 (Sept. 7 to Nov. 8): cross country, slow pitch softball, girls swim and dive, golf (alternative season), tennis (alternative season)

WIAA Season 2 (Jan. 4 – March 7): basketball, bowling, boys swim and dive, gymnastics, cheerleading, wrestling

WIAA Season 3 (March 1 – May 2): volleyball, girls soccer, 1B/2B boys soccer, football

WIAA Season 4 (April 28 – June 27): tennis, fast pitch softball, track and field, baseball, golf, boys soccer, dance/drill

Season one sports remain contingent upon meeting phase status requirements within Gov. Inslee’s Safe Start Program as outlines in the Return to Activity Guidelines. Those guidelines are different for each sport based on their assigned risk level.

Athletes will have to pass a physical, just as they have been required to in the past, and pass daily screenings, most likely temperature and absence of symptoms recorded by the coaching staffs. As of now, athletes won’t be required to take a COVID-19 test, citing a lack of resources to require that of its member schools and all participating athletes. An athlete that tests positive would be required to serve a 14-day quarantine period, and that may be required of the entire team depending on the situation.

The WIAA is awaiting further instruction from the State Board of Health regarding guidelines for girls swim and dive, before they can compete in Season 1. If they are not given the green light, their season will be moved to Season 3 in the spring alongside volleyball, soccer and football.

With the seasons being cut short, individual leagues will be given their “start date” and the date they need to have their qualifying team submitted to the WIAA for postseason participation. It will be up to the leagues to determine how best to determine that qualifying team within the timeframe of their shortened season.

The WIAA and its participating schools still have questions to address. While WIAA officials hope that spectators will be allowed at competitions, they remain dedicated to leaving those decisions up to medical professionals, science and the State Board of Health.

Additionally, the the Washington Officials Association (WOA) have told the WIAA that 30% of their member officials have said that they would not feel comfortable or safe officiating a sport right now. With the state already experiencing an officials shortage for some sports in recent years —  and a membership that is made up of a good percentage of older persons potentially at high-risk to COVID-19 — that issue presents a potential hurdle that will have to be addressed.

To stay updated on the latest information regarding the upcoming high school sports seasons, the WIAA recommends downloading their WIAA LIVE app for your smart phone.

— By Scott Williams 

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