STEVENS POINT — On Aug. 14 the WIAA Board of Control unanimously approved scheduling dates and other changes to the upcoming sports during the 2020-21 school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previously in July during a special meeting, the WIAA separated fall sports into two categories: Low-risk and high-risk. The low-risk sports (cross country, swimming and girls golf) would begin practices Aug. 17, while high-risk sports (football, volleyball, boys soccer) would begin practice Sept. 7.
At the August meeting, those dates did not change, however, final season dates were approved — as were start and end dates for winter, spring and the alternate fall season which will take place in early 2021. Of note, the winter and spring seasons had the total number of weeks allowed for competition reduced, as did both options for fall sports.
“For reason of diminishing overlap, for reasons of not intruding into the summer, for reasons of not two times dinging the spring sports athletes, that alternate proposal is the one that after staff has deconstructed it continues to rise to the top for us,” WIAA executive director Dave Anderson said, adding that the organization would remain flexible with the pandemic. “I don’t view anything as being set in concrete or stone right now.”
The board listened to a presentation on the physical and mental health of youth during the pandemic by Dr. Tim McGuine of the University of Wisconsin. The board also heard liaison reports from Mike Thompson of the Department of Public Instruction, John Ashley of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards and Nathan Delany of the Wisconsin Athletic Directors Association.
Monroe and Brodhead had previously postponed their fall sports to the spring season, and the WIAA is imposing a Sept. 1 deadline for all schools to decide whether or not they will move to the spring.
Outside of the Badger and Rock Valley conferences, the homes of Monroe and Brodhead, the other local conferences had voted weeks earlier on playing the fall season. With locally rising COVID-19 numbers and firm dates and guidelines by the WIAA, the leagues have opted to revisit a discussion those decisions.
The Six Rivers Conference, which includes Black Hawk, Argyle, Albany, Pecatonica, Juda and Monticello, were set to meet both Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 17-18, “to discuss the calendar options and what is best for our kids,” said Pecatonica Principal and Athletic Director Paul Manriquez.
“I’m guessing the Six Rivers will release our decision by Tuesday (Aug. 18) or Wednesday (Aug. 19),” said Travis Erickson, Argyle athletic director.
New Glarus was scheduled to hold its next board meeting Aug. 17, according to school athletic director Brittany Spencer Grant.
“We have Capitol Conference meetings next week too,” Grant said in an email Aug. 14. “I do not foresee a conference-wide decision in either direction, but rather each school making their own decisions. (I’m) not sure yet what that all means for New Glarus Athletics.”
For football, the 2020 season will run Sept. 7 to the week of Nov. 16, with a maximum of nine games to be played, which include two weeks of postseason play. Boys soccer and volleyball would run through the week of Nov. 2. Cross country would end the week of Oct. 26 and girls golf would culminate the week of Oct. 12.
Alternate plans for fall sports would begin as early as Feb. 1 and as late as March 22, and would conclude in April and May. The possibility exists for a maximum of five weeks of coinciding alternate fall and winter sports happening at once, with girls swimming eating away at much of that time and girls volleyball matching up for three weeks.
The alternate fall and spring sports season would run simultaneously for up to eight weeks for girls golfers, but just one week for swimming. Football would coincide with boys track, baseball and golf for six weeks. The WIAA said it is up to each school to determine how many sports an athlete can play at one time.
Winter sports would begin with practices starting either Nov. 9 or Nov. 15, and all seasons ending prior to March 1, with the exception of boys basketball, which would run through the first week of March.
Regularly scheduled spring sports would begin either the last week in March or the opening weeks of April and conclude at the end of June.
In all seasons, schools will be allowed to schedule games through the final week, meaning, if a team is knocked out of the postseason, the school could still find another opportunity or more to play additional games. In order to optimize travel and scheduling, the WIAA emphasized on contests holding a “fifth quarter” or “extra innings” as a varsity reserve contest. The WIAA also discouraged traveling out of state for competition, as well as multi-team events involving teams from outside a host school’s region, which could include cross country invitationals and weekend volleyball tournaments.
Schools that begin the fall sports season as scheduled will be allowed to opt to the spring if less than 50% of games have been during a local COVID-19 outbreak. In football, a team could move to the spring but would only be allowed a maximum of seven games played between the two options.
While there will be a two-week postseason option for football in the fall, the spring option will have no such culminating event. The WIAA also said that holding state championships is unlikely, and instead a regional tournament culminating event may take place. Dates for possible tournaments wouldn’t be finalized until about 30 days before the end of each sport’s season.
“As we have said all along, if we are able to do state championships, we are very eager and willing and would be happy to do that,” Anderson said. “I think the reality of this year is that we better get a little bit further along and a little bit closer to the end of any given season and then make that determination for planning purposes ...”
The WIAA also gave schools one year exemptions to change or add co-ops because of the pandemic and will allow a school to schedule contests with a different conference without penalty.
“We want schools to be able to schedule where and when they can, every chance they get,” Anderson said.
This means Monroe’s plans to move to the Rock Valley from the Badger Conference for the upcoming school year would be allowed if both the Rock Valley and the Badger schools approve. While the Rock Valley unanimously approved the measure, the Badger Conference did not, meaning Monroe will remain in the Badger.
“As of today, the move isn’t happening,” Monroe Athletic Director Jeff Newcomer said Aug. 14.
Fall Sports Start & End Dates
(* End dates to be determined)
● Cross Country-Boys & Girls (Monday, Aug. 17 to week of Oct. 26*)
● Football (Monday, Sept. 7 to week of Nov. 16*) — Earliest first game is Wednesday, Sept. 23
● Girls Golf (Monday, Aug. 17 to week of Oct. 12*)
● Boys Soccer (Monday, Sept. 7 to week of Nov. 2*)
● Girls Swimming & Diving (Monday, Aug. 17 to week of Nov. 9*)
● Girls Tennis (Monday, Aug. 17 to week of Oct. 19*)
● Volleyball-Boys & Girls (Monday, Sept. 7 to week of Nov. 2*)
Winter Sports Start & End Dates
● Boys Basketball (Monday, Nov. 23 to week of March 1*)
● Girls Basketball (Monday, Nov. 16 to week of Feb. 22*)
● Gymnastics (Monday, Nov. 16 to week of Feb. 22*)
● Hockey-Boys & Girls (Monday, Nov. 16 to week of Feb. 15*)
● Boys Swimming & Diving (Monday, Nov. 23 to week of Feb. 1*)
● Wrestling (Monday, Nov. 23 to week of Feb. 15*)
Alternate Fall Sports Start & End Dates
● Cross Country-Boys & Girls (Monday, March 15 to week of May 3*)
● Football (Monday, March 8 to week of May 3*) — Earliest first game is Wednesday, March 24
● Girls Golf (Monday, March 29 to week of May 17*)
● Boys Soccer (Monday, March 22 to week of May 10*)
● Girls Swimming & Diving (Monday, Feb. 15 to week of April 5*)
● Girls Tennis (Monday, March 8 to week of April 26*)
● Volleyball-Boys & Girls (Monday, Feb. 22 to week of April 12*)
Spring Sports Start & End Dates
● Baseball (Monday, April 19 to week of June 28*)
● Boys Golf (Monday, April 19 to week of June 14*)
● Softball (Monday, April 19 to week of June 28*)
● Girls Soccer (Monday, April 26 to week of June 28*)
● Boys Tennis (Monday, May 3 to week of June 21*)
● Track & Field-Boys & Girls (Monday, April 19 to week of June 28*)