SPOONER– By a vote of 8-3, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has decided to move back the starting dates for fall sports for the 2020 season.

At their Thursday, July 23, virtual meeting, the WIAA Board of Control voted for “low-risk” sports including cross country, girls golf, girls tennis, and girls swimming, to start the week of August 17.

“High risk” sports including football, volleyball, and boys soccer, will start the week of September 7.

Schools which are unable to participate in any or all of the sports during the fall due to the ongoing pandemic are given the flexibility to participate in the spring.

Sports will return

The big news, however, is not the delay, but the fact that high school sports in Wisconsin have been given the official go-ahead to make their return for the coming fall season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Football, volleyball, and soccer will start the week of September 7 because they are sports that create a higher risk of virus transmission and infection, determined the WIAA Board of Control.

WIAA executive director Dave Anderson was quoted as being in favor of having high school sports this fall because he believes it is important for student-athletes to have as many opportunities to participate as possible during this time.

“Let’s do our best to find a way,” he said. “Let’s do what we can for this year only.”

Anderson said that some will be very happy with the decision to go ahead with sports, while others will be disappointed.

Whether the WIAA will offer any postseason state championship tournaments remains unclear.

Board members at this point said they just want to get the coming fall seasons started.

State championships could possibly be replaced with Regional or District championships this year if necessary.

It has been awhile

To many it may seem like an eternity since high school sports have taken place in Wisconsin.

It was back in March, while WIAA girls were in Madison playing their State Tournament, that COVID-19 forced the season to be canceled immediately. The girls never got the chance to decide a State Champion, and the boys teams never completed their season. As the pandemic continued, spring sports also were canceled.

Now, the WIAA Board of Control decision to resume sports may seem like a breath of fresh air finally to many. Others, however, may believe that sports should have been canceled this coming autumn.

Fall sports in spring?

Teams that begin playing this fall but may have to stop because of COVID-19 infections could resume their seasons in the spring, as the Board of Control ordered the WIAA to start putting together a plan that would allow schools that opt out of fall competition to offer those sports in the spring.

It remains unclear what holding fall sports in the spring would look like, as possible conflicts with spring sports like baseball, soccer, track, and softball could arise. Those details still need to be ironed out, according to the WIAA Board of Control.

Local reaction

Locally, coaches and athletic directors will now have to sort out the details for the upcoming season.

At Shell Lake, Athletic Director Jim Campbell said, “Have to meet with my fall Coaches, Lakeland Conference and school administration to see where we are at and what we will do as a school.

“(There are) a lot of answers that are up in the air and will probably change daily, weekly.”

Spooner Rails head football coach Josh Fizel commented, “Our football program is excited to have clarity from the WIAA regarding what the 2020 football season will look like. We know we will have to adapt and adjust to different situations throughout the season.

“I am excited for the young men on our team who have worked tremendously hard over their careers to have the opportunity to compete in something they love this fall,” Fizel said.

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)

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