MONROE — Less than four days after the WIAA approved dates for a 2020 fall sports season alternative, the local landscape saw more teams head to the bench.
On Aug. 18, school superintendents of the Six Rivers Conference met and voted 9-5 to move to football to the alternative spring in order to mitigate local spread of COVID-19, the virus that has caused a worldwide pandemic. However, the conference also voted 9-5 in favor of leaving the volleyball season in the fall.
A few football teams may decide to elect to attempt to play in the fall and skip the spring season, which Black Hawk Schools Superintendent Willy Chambers said the other Six Rivers schools should support.
Football and volleyball are each considered “high risk” sports by the WIAA as far as physical contact and the risk of spreading COVID-19, and the state’s governing high school sports body opted to shrink the fall seasons in July. Both sports wouldn’t be able to open practice in the early weeks of August, instead not holding practice until Sept. 7. The truncated football season wouldn’t be able to hold its first games until Sept. 23, and the season would end the week of Nov. 16. Volleyball, which can begin competition as soon as the week of Sept. 14, would see its season end by the end of the first week of November.
“The conference commissioner will take care of the schedule,” Chambers said.
In the alternative spring plan, football practice would begin March 8 and games would end in early May. Black Hawk, which began a co-op with Warren, in 2019 and won the WIAA Division 7 state championship, wouldn’t have been able to play with their Illinois partner in a true fall season, as the IHSA, Warren’s governing body, altered its football season to early 2021.
“I talked to Shawn Teske about it, and we hope we can make it happen,” Chambers said, referring to Warren’s superintendent.
Other conferences making decisions
Prior to the WIAA’s Aug. 14 Board of Control meeting, both the Badger and Rock Valley conferences opted to move its fall sports to the spring. There were some holdouts in the 14-team Badger Conference, including Beaver Dam, Sauk Prairie, Portage, Baraboo and Fort Atkinson, but Monroe had already said it would postpone its fall sports. Brodhead, a member of the Rock Valley in all sports but football, is also moving to the spring.
“For cross country, we — Albany — and Pec-Argyle are a part of the SWAL,” said Derik Doescher, Albany’s athletic director. The SWAL was to meet Aug. 21 to find out what each school is planning to do for fall sports in order to schedule contests.
Cross Country and girls golf were allowed to begin practice Aug. 17 as part of “low risk” sports, with competitive play being allowed in girls golf as early as Aug. 20 and cross country able to compete Aug. 25. However, the season could be moved to the spring as well.
Darlington, which calls the SWAL home in all sports, decided at its school board meeting Aug. 17 to not follow any recommendation to play fall sports in the alternate spring season, and will attempt to play all of its fall sports in 2020, which includes girls golf, volleyball, cross country and football.
The Capitol Conference voted 8-3 to move its fall sports seasons of volleyball, girls tennis, boys soccer and cross country to the spring.
“All schools continue to have the opportunity to make decisions on fall sports based on local data which best serves their stakeholders and keeps their students, staff and communities safe,” conference commissioner Jeffrey Giese wrote in a press release Aug. 18.
Member schools may decide to proceed with fall seasons independently, Giese said. Cambridge, Watertown Luther Prep and Lakeside Lutheran have all indicated they plan on sticking with fall sports.
New Glarus and Belleville have opted out “for sure” according to Giese, with Columbus, Lake Mils, Lodi, Poynette, Marshall, Waterloo and Wisconsin Heights all set to meet by the end of next week. “Board of Education meets for all of those schools are scheduled over the next week and (we) should know what each district is deciding by Aug. 27.
Both New Glarus and Belleville were slated to play outside the Capitol Conference this fall in football as a part of the WIAA’s state-wide realignment plan, and Giese said that he hadn’t heard or seen an announcement on football yet.
The Wisconsin Department of Instruction was also to meet by the end of the week, possibly deciding on its own guidelines that could further throw a curveball into the WIAA’s plans.
Chambers voted WIAA Board of Control president-elect
At the WIAA Board of Control meeting Aug. 14, Chambers was unanimously voted as president-elect of the board for the 2021-22 school year. Eric Russell of Baldwin-Woodville is the current president, which Bernie Nikolay serving as treasurer.
Chambers is the District 5 representative on the Board of Control and nominated himself for the president-elect position. He said he was comforted by the 11-0 vote approval.
“It feels good to know your peers support you,” Chambers said.
Black Hawk has one of the lowest enrollments of any school in the state. However, Chambers isn’t on the board with an agenda. He just wants to make a difference.
“I don’t know how people feel about it” around here, Chambers said. “It’s an honor for me, personally, to represent Black Hawk and to be a part of the WIAA and trying to make a positive difference for student athletes and schools across the state.”