NORTH CRAWFORD AND SENECA - It looks like athletics are about to run straight into the COVID-19 Pandemic and the fallout will be large.
Already, professional sports are struggling to find a way around the giant pandemic obstacle.
The NBA (National Basketball Association) has opted for quarantining players in a large sports complex and playing games there, while the players live inside the complex-the Orlando Bubble.
The NFL (National Football League) decided to cancel all pre-season games and start with the first regular season game in September.
Major League Baseball (MLB) started their reduced 60-game regular season recently and is playing games with no fans present in the stands. Unfortunately, the Florida Marlins have already reported an outbreak of COVID infection on the team with at least a dozen players testing positive for the virus.
On the college-level, there have been cancellations of the upcoming football season. Both the Ivy League and the Patriot League cancelled their football seasons. This week, the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) cancelled the football season and fall sports.
What will happen to UW-Madison’s football season in the Big Ten Conference is also unknown at this point. There is talk of a 10-game regular season only. If the UW football season cancels completely, the lost revenue will exceed $100 million, according to ESPN.
Then, there are high school sports. Will there be high school football this season? The WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association) has delayed the start of practices and games for the fall sports seasons. (See story in this edition.) However, the WIAA Board voted 8-3 to allow the seasons to be determined by the schools and conferences themselves.
The WIAA Board declined to embrace a planned forwarded by 35 school district administrators from Southwest Wisconsin that would have not played fall sports in fall, but rather in spring and then sent the spring sports into a summer season. The board allowed that such a plan could be pursued by local schools on their own.
The Big Eight Conference, which includes the large schools in the Madison area, has already cancelled the entire fall sports season.
Amidst the confusion about sports being played in the pandemic, two local school district administrators (Seneca’s Dave Boland and North Crawford’s Brandon Munson) offered some thoughts on the current situation earlier this week.
“It’s a fluid situation,” Dave Boland said. “There are still a lot of pieces in play.”
As for the WIAA Board’s action and letter last week essentially delaying the start of the fall seasons, Boland ssees no major effect.
“I don’t think moving the seasons back addresses most of the concerns,” Boland said. “I guess it gives people more time to think about it. More time for school boards to decide.”
The Seneca administrator said that he had heard 51 percent of district administrators statewide wanted the fall season moved to spring.
The Seneca Area School District Board will meet on August 17 and is expected to decide how to proceed with fall sports at that time.
North Crawford District Administrator Brandon Munson compared the situation with sports this fall to the academic plan put in place for the district.
“It’s a tougher situation to navigate than the academic side,” Munson said. “We don’t have any guidance. It’s really hard. We were hoping for the CESA 3 plan to be accepted.”
The North Crawford District Administrator noted what happened in college towns like LaCrosse when the ‘Safe at Home’ order was removed.
Munson explained that just reopening the school safely will be challenging enough. He believes despite the best efforts at social distancing and mask wearing there will be some contact.
“They’re kids after all,” Munson said. “Things are bound to happen.”
However, the school has a plan to attempt to mitigate risks of exposure to the virus–a very serious plan.
“So, at 3:35 p.m. that all goes to the wayside?” Munson wondered.
“We’re between a rock and a hard place,” Munson said. “Are we going to be the only district not playing or cancelling the seasons. It’s an impossible position. It’s a lot harder than the academic side.”
Munson said the district can institute things for the coaches to do at practice that could help mitigate the transmission of the virus. However, what happens once the game starts is another matter.
“There’s a lot we can’t control,” Munson said. “Once they’re on the field or the court, it will look like any other year.”
As for last week’s WIAA Board guidance, Munson felt that it didn’t provide much help.
“Moving the timeline (for starting the seasons) did not accomplish much,” Munson said. “It probably has not solved a thing.”
Munson believes there will be a special North Crawford School Board meeting scheduled soon to make a decision on fall sports. He noted the board could decide to proceed with all three sports or cancel all three, or it could consider each sport individually.
Following a very deliberative process to allow for full consideration of the most up-to-date information pertaining to COVID-19, the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) has announced updates to the fall sports season.
Conference seasons and championships in the sports of football, women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country are to be canceled for the 2020-21 academic year. Institutions will retain the autonomy to establish practice opportunities within the limitations stipulated by the NCAA throughout the 2020-21 academic year.
All competition in the sports of women’s tennis & women’s golf will be suspended for the 2020-21 fall term. The WIAC seasons and championships in the sports of women’s tennis and women’s golf will be moved to the 2020-21 spring term. Institutions will retain the autonomy to establish practice opportunities within the limitations stipulated by the NCAA during the fall term.
Determinations with regards to the winter sports season, including the start date and the manner in which competition will be conducted, will be determined at a later date.
Any practice opportunities or competitions must be conducted in accordance with NCAA resocialization guidelines in effect at that time, in addition to any mandated restrictions imposed by local, county or campus entities.For further information or questions, please contact WIAC Commissioner Danielle Harris at email@example.com or (608) 263-4402.