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WIAA reorganizes high-school sports seasons in wake of coronavirus pandemic, moves football to spring

By Nathan Joyce Seattle Times high school sports coordinator, 07/27/20, 12:00PM PDT

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Lights at the Stadium Bowl are turned on in tribute to the high school class of 2020, Friday, April 17, 2020, at Stadium High School in Tacoma, Wash.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association announced Tuesday night that there could be high-school football this school year — but it’ll be in the spring.

That was the decision of the WIAA Executive Board, which also decided to turn the normal three-season school year into four, shorter sports seasons.

But the WIAA warned, in a state that is seeing a spike of positive tests for the coronavirus, it’s all still up in the air.

“When you look at the dates, those are definitely written in pencil,” WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman said in a Zoom call with media members.

For the 2020-21 school year, cross country, slowpitch softball, girls swimming and diving and golf and tennis (for leagues that don’t hold those sports in the spring) will be in the fall, or Season 1, which runs from Sept. 7 until Nov. 8.

The fall season is especially tentative. Hoffman pointed out that counties have to be in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan for low-risk sports such as cross country, and Phase 4 for moderate-risk sports such as volleyball and soccer.

It’s possible, Executive Board president Greg Whitmore said, 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.

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

The WIAA will take a break during November and December to give it some flexibility in case of further spikes in positive tests. There is no plan for what to do if the virus does not allow for sports in January.

Season 2 will start Jan. 4 with the normal winter sports: basketball, bowling, boys swimming and diving, gymnastics, cheerleading and wrestling. It ends March 7. The “normal” winter season usually begins in late November.

Season 3, which will have the normal fall sports of football, girls and small-school boys soccer and volleyball, will run from March 1 to May 2.

Hoffman cautioned that for high-risk sports such as wrestling and football, it requires counties to be Phase 4-plus, which has not been determined what that will look like.

Season 4, with all the normal spring sports of baseball, fastpitch softball, track and field, tennis, golf and boys soccer will run from April 26 until June 27.

Spring practices usually begin in late February or early March with competitions beginning in early to mid-March. They usually end Memorial Day weekend.

The WIAA said it still doesn’t have a plan for the postseason. There’s a chance they could be regionalized with several teams able to call themselves champions. That could cut back on travel and expenses for school districts.

Also

  • The WIAA could have several four-sport athletes this year with the new format. Some of the seasons have an overlap, which the WIAA hopes for flexibility to decide how those will work.
  • The WIAA said it, and most school districts, don’t have the resources for testing. But a positive test will mean 14 days of quarantine, and could force an entire team to do the same.
  • Another issue facing the WIAA is officials. Whitmore said a survey from the Washington Officials Association said 30% weren’t comfortable with working a game at this point. The WOA already was facing low numbers.
  • The WIAA also will have to figure out what it will do about football players leaving the state during fall and returning to play in the spring.
  • The WIAA hasn’t figured out what middle-school sports will look like yet.
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Nathan Joyce: njoyce@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @NathanAJoyce.