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WIAA fine-tunes plan for sports to be played in 2020-21

By Nathan Joyce Seattle Times high school sports coordinator 07/31/2020, 10:30am PDT

Ballard Beavers’ quarterback makes a pass during football practice at Ballard High School in Seattle on Oct. 28, 2019. (Andy Bao / The Seattle Times)

A week after the Washington Interscholastic Activites Association reorganized its sports calendar, it did some fine tuning.

Last week, the executive board turned the three-season academic year into four, shorter seasons and moved football to the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuesday, the WIAA’s Executive Board announced a few changes to the plan in the wake of spiking coronavirus cases across the state.

• Winter sports, which are in “Season 2” of the WIAA’s new calendar will start a week earlier (practices begin Dec. 28), so there won’t be overlap with Season 3 (which is the new season that contains many of the normal fall sports, including football), which starts competition March 1.

• Football practice is scheduled to start Feb. 17, earlier than the other Season 3 sports, as football requires more practices before competition is allowed.

• Cross country and slowpitch softball, which are still scheduled for fall (Season 1), have been classific as “alternate seasons,” which means they can compete in Season 1 or Season 3. The state championships are moved to Season 3. This is similar to how golf and tennis are contested normally, with some leagues holding the sport in the fall and some in the spring, but the state championships are in the spring.

• Girls swimming, which was scheduled for Season 1, has been moved to Season 3.

• Since each season this year is shorter by about 30%, schools are capped at scheduling 70% of the contests they normally schedule, which means the 10-week football season will be seven weeks.

From sports-information reports.

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

By Nathan Joyce Seattle Times high school sports coordinator 07/27/2020, 12:00pm PDT

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.
  •  

Nathan Joyce: njoyce@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @NathanAJoyce.

Papermaker Jackson Clemmer (83) hauls in a pass for a 28-yard touchdown during the second half of the WIAA 4A state championship game between Bothell... (Andy Bao / The Seattle Times)

Maurice Heims had a plan.

And now he has a problem.

Originally, UW’s three-star outside linebacker commit — who moved from Hamburg, Germany, to California to continue his football career last year — was slated to fly home in December to sign his national letter of intent surrounded by family and friends. That was before the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) announced Monday that its fall sports seasons will be put on pause until December or January because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Which leaves Heims with a pair of options: He can play his senior season at Santa Margarita Catholic High School and sign with Washington from the United States, or he can skip his senior season, sign with UW in Germany and enroll early to get a head start in Seattle.

In a direct message, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Heims acknowledged that Monday’s news “changes a lot of things for me.”

And he’s one of the lucky ones.

On Tuesday the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association officially moved its football season to the spring, with practices beginning in late February and playoffs ending in early May. Highly coveted recruits such as Heims — or Washington standouts J.T. Tuimoloau and Emeka Egbuka — have earned scholarship offers. They can sit out a season and still sign with their school of choice.

Five-star Centennial (Calif.) High School defensive end Korey Foreman — the No. 1 player in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings — tweeted, “if they make me choose between my senior season or going to college … please believe i’m headed to my first (college) camp .. no questions asked”. Four-star Lincoln (Tacoma) High School linebacker Julien Simon also announced on Instagram that he will forgo his senior campaign to enroll at USC in January.

On the other side, five-star UW quarterback commit Sam Huard told KOMO on Wednesday that he will play his senior season at Kennedy Catholic next spring rather than enrolling early at Washington.

But what about less publicized prospects who were banking on breakthrough senior seasons to be noticed by college coaches? Considering that college football’s Division I signing periods — Dec. 16-18 and Feb. 3-April 1 — end before the conclusion of Washington’s spring football season, some local recruits may move out of the state to play their senior seasons elsewhere.

“I’ve had kids that don’t even have offers that have already told me, ‘I’m transferring to Utah. I’m transferring to Michigan. I’m transferring to Montana, because I have to play my senior year,’ ” 247Sports national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman said. “Will that even move the needle with college coaches? If you didn’t have an offer by July and now you’re moving, what makes you think just moving to another state is going to naturally guarantee an offer?

“I think you’re going to see a lot more people moving, but I think the colleges are also going to have to adjust their recruiting. That’s why I think you’ll see more (2021) offers go out in January and February.”

But if “a lot more people” move, where will they be welcome? To this point, roughly a dozen states have delayed the start of high-school football, according to ESPN, with more expected to announce similar decisions. In Texas the University Interscholastic League — which oversees the state’s premier public powerhouses, in Class 5A and 6A — pushed its season opener by one month, to late September.

Still, it won’t be so easy for outside recruits to settle in the Lone Star State.

“What’s going to be interesting is to see what the ruling becomes by those particular states’ governing bodies, because I’ve talked to a couple sources in Texas,” Huffman said. “The UIL has already made it very clear that athletically motivated transfers will not be permitted to play.”

And the recruits, in this case, aren’t the only ones being asked to adjust. Huffman expects college coaches to be allowed more access to high-school prospects between January and March, in what had previously been considered a recruiting dead period. Though college football’s regular “signing day” is set for Feb. 3, recruits can technically sign between that day and April 1, and more 2021 offers could go out in those months as coaches essentially play catch-up.

Washington, for one, has 14 commits in a 2021 class expected to settle at 20 or 21 signees. Coach Jimmy Lake and Co. are still waiting for their first 2022 commit.

And that 2022 cycle will be significantly affected as well. Because last spring’s evaluation period was canceled, Huffman said that “far less 2022 offers are out at this point than they would have been.” With prep seasons being pushed to the spring, prospects will basically be subjected to a marathon of football in multiple forms. Their junior and senior seasons will be separated by a few short months, which will also be filled with recruiting camps and 7-on-7 tournaments. Any semblance of an offseason will be swallowed by the mitigating circumstances.

Or, in other words: College football’s recruiting machine will continue to churn — even if prospects’ best-laid plans are replaced by problems.

“I have no clue what’s going to happen with the season being so late,” Soquel (Calif.) High School offensive lineman and 2021 UW commit Robert Wyrsch said when asked if he’ll skip his senior season. “As of right now I don’t have an answer on what I plan to do. It’s a very heavy question.”

Mike Vorel: mvorel@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @MikeVorel. Mike Vorel is the UW football beat writer for The Seattle Times.

At this point, there are still more questions than answers, for Tacoma athletic directors.