WIAA gives fall sports option to move to spring
The fall prep sports season will go on for schools and teams able to do so, but an option to postpone fall sports to spring also was approved Friday, Aug. 14 by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Board of Control.
The unanimous 11-0 vote results in four distinct seasons being jammed into the 2020-21 school year that is now underway with the starts of girls swimming, girls tennis, girls golf and boys and girls cross country this week and ends the week of June 28 with the conclusions of the baseball, softball, girls soccer and track and field seasons.
Called the “Alternate Fall Option-Spring/Winter Reduced” model, it was the model out of six created by WIAA staff that those staff members felt would best accomplish the goals of creating athletic opportunities amid the COVID- 19 pandemic while limiting overlap of sports seasons within the school year and limiting an extension of prep sports into the summer of 2021.
“We tried to look at every concern, every option,” WIAA assistant director Stephanie Hauser said. “We’ve shared with the board specifically the pros and cons from our staff. We know that none of these will be ideal but wanted you to have a lot of things to talk about today.”
“As staff has deconstructed all of these things, our opinion is that the very first model that you looked at, that alternate fall option with spring/winter reduced is likely the most doable, most feasible course of direction,” WIAA executive director Dave Anderson said.
Prior to approving the one-year changes to the sports calendars, the Board of Control approved a lengthy list of COVID- related accommodations to WIAA rules aimed at providing flexibility to member schools during what will be a unique school year.
One of those items requires schools to declare by Sept. 1 if they plan to participate in the traditional fall sports season or the alternate fall season. Schools may move all fall sports to the alternate spring season or specific sports.
The Sept. 1 declarations will help WIAA staff start to determine what post-season tournaments, or “culminating events,” will look like and will help schools determine what schools they can schedule events with.
One of the COVID-19 accommodations defines what will constitute a season if schools and teams are forced to shut down due to illness issues. Football programs unable to start or complete 50 percent of the fall season, including games and practices, are eligible for a prorated alternate season. Other fall sports unable to start or complete 50 percent of the fall season, including games and practices, are eligible for a complete alternate season. Fall sports programs exceeding 50 percent of their seasons will be considered to have completed their season and cannot compete in the spring.
Football, boys soccer and volleyball programs may begin practicing on Sept. 7. Fall seasons will end on their originally- scheduled weeks, but how those seasons will end is still to be determined. Cross country ends the week of Oct. 26, volleyball the week of Nov. 2, girls swimming the week of Nov. 9 and football the week of Nov. 16.
WIAA staff pledged Friday to disclose plans for culminating events about 30 days prior to the scheduled end date of a sports season.
Winter sports seasons will be shortened by three weeks. All winter sports will start one week later than originally planned. Girls basketball can start practicing on Nov. 16. Boys basketball and wrestling teams may start Nov. 23. Boys wrestling will be completed the week of Feb. 15, girls basketball the week of Feb. 22 and boys basketball the week of March 1.
The alternate fall season will kick off with the first girls swim practices on Feb. 15, volleyball on Feb. 22, football on March 8 and cross country on March 15. End dates include the week of April 5 for swimming, the week of April 12 for volleyball, the week of May 3 for football and cross country, the week of May 10.
Alternate fall seasons would provide seven weeks of competition and the alternate football season has no culminating event.
“We tried to stagger those alternate fall seasons to minimize the amount of overlap of shared athletes as possible and pull those things up a little further into winter that we could play indoors,” Hauser said. “Some of those things that are outside, we pushed them down a little further.”
Most spring seasons will be shortened by two weeks. All spring seasons will start later than normal. Track and field, baseball, softball and golf all have April 19 start dates. Golf ends the week of June 14, and the rest end the last week of June.
School districts that use the alternate fall option will decide locally how to handle student-athletes competing in overlapping sports. Those who don’t use it will experience a lengthy gap of about two months between the end of winter and the start of spring.
The alternate option found favor in several large cities around the state with Green Bay, Appleton, La Crosse and Eau Claire school districts among those quickly jumping on board and announcing shortly after Friday’s meeting they were postponing fall sports to spring.
“We wanted the board to recognize that staff heard the concerns that were shared at the end of July,” Anderson said. “Consider the overlap, consider the runon, consider the conflicts in some schools where kids are multi-sport athletes and those sorts of things . . . We have heard many fears expressed by some members, some coaches, many parents and some athletes that don’t forget the spring sport athletes who have already been deprived of one season and now pushing them into summer. Now we’re forcing them to choose between their other summer programs and opportunities or summer jobs and family plans. The staff has worked every day to develop ideas and models and options.”
Other modifications _ If tournament series are conducted, regional groupings will be implemented (four teams in football) as opposed to the sectional half-brackets most sports have been using in recent years.
_ All minimum number of contests requirement for tournament eligibility will be suspended in 2020-21.
_ All tournament series seeding will be conducted virtually in 2020-21.
_ Co-op programs that include schools that are unable to participate in activities during 2020-21 may seek other co-op partners to provide opportunities for participation.
_ With conference approval, schools whose conference has canceled sports in 2020-21 may seek schedule relief with other conferences as an independent without sanctions or going through prescribed conference realignment process.
_ For 2020-21, programs may schedule contests after they are eliminated from the WIAA tournament or culminating event respective sport’s revised season.
_ Schools that were unable to conduct their five unrestricted coaching contact days during the 2020 summer may schedule those days during the 2020-21 calendar provided there is one week of no contact prior to the start of the respective season. However, during the closedsession meeting, the board directed staff to have discussions on coaching contact during 2020-21 placed on the agenda of the September meeting.
_ Student-athletes may compete in no more than two non-school events with school approval during each regular sports season in 2020-21 only, which adopts the middle-level regulation. An “event” will be defined as a game or tournament.