RENTON — Football, volleyball and girls soccer will be moved to spring as the normal three-season school year will be condensed into four shorter sports seasons in moves announced Tuesday night by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s Executive Board.
The announcement is not set in stone, as the WIAA noted the rising number of positive tests for the coronavirus in the state.
“When you look at dates, those are definitely written in pencil,” WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman said in a Zoom media briefing.
The fall sports of cross country, slowpitch softball, as well as alternative seasons for golf and tennis, have been determined to consist of WIAA Season 1 and will each begin practices the week of Sept. 7, a date determined by the Executive Board at a previous meeting.
Season 1 will run through Nov. 8.
The viability of girls’ swim and dive taking place in WIAA Season 1 depends on more information from the state Department of Health.
Participation in any fall sports will depend on county progression through the phases laid out in Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan over the coming weeks.
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.
Currently 22 of the state’s 39 counties, including Jefferson and Clallam counties, are in Phase 2 or lower. Any changes in phases are frozen until Tuesday due to rising coronavirus cases statewide.
The Executive Board will create benchmarks Tuesday to be met in order for WIAA Season 1 to take place.
Board president Greg Whitmore, a coach and athletic director at Lind-Ritzville, said it is possible fall sports could be pushed to spring and no sports are played in Washington before 2021 if the virus is still a threat 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.”
A break between Nov. 8 and Jan. 4 will allow for flexibility in case of further upticks in positive tests.
No contingency plan exists to guide what can be done if the virus’ impact does not allow for sports in January.
Season 2 will start Jan. 4 with winter sports: basketball, bowling, boys swimming and diving, gymnastics, cheerleading and wrestling. It ends March 7. Winter season sports usually begins in late November.
Season 3, which will have the normal fall sports of football, girls and Class 1B/2B boys soccer and volleyball, will run from March 1 to May 2.
Hoffman warned that for high-risk sports such as wrestling and football, it requires counties to be Phase 4-plus, the guidelines for which have not been determined.
The normal spring sports of tennis, fastpitch softball, track and field, baseball, golf, boys soccer and dance/drill would run from April 26 to June 27.
The WIAA will not require COVID-19 testing, as it, and many school districts, lack funding for such measures.
Teams could possibly be removed from competition if a player/coach/official tests positive, because anyone who was in close contact with them will need to be quarantined for 14 days.
The WIAA said that it is not sure yet if it will allow athletes to compete in two sports at once or what to do about athletes, particularly in football, who leave the state for the fall season and return in January.
“I’m hoping we will be able to have a four-sport athlete with some of the overlaps,” Hoffman said. “We are actually adding a season, even though they are shorter. We might have our first four-sport athlete in a while.”
And no decision has been made on postseason plans.
It’s possible the postseason may be regionalized with several teams able to call themselves champs.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or at [email protected].