Big 8 likely to cancel non-conference football games

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Rob Reischel
Middleton football coach Jason Pertzborn and his Cardinals likely won't be playing non-conference games this season./File photo

The hits keep coming. And the pads haven’t even gone on yet.

Football coaches inside the Big Eight Conference drafted a letter on July 12 proposing that all non-conference games be eliminated this season. They gave the letter to their athletic directors the following day, and when the league’s A.D.’s meet July 21, they’re expected to cancel the non-conference portion of the season.

That means Middleton’s game at Bay Port on Aug. 20 would not take place. Waunakee — the Cardinals’ opponent on Aug. 28 — approved a plan earlier this week to eliminate all non-conference football games, so that game has already been canceled.

“I just think it’s the smart thing to do,” Middleton coach Jason Pertzborn said. “The best-case scenario is we’ll get back into the building at the start of August. That’s not enough time to get ready.”

Football equipment can be handed out on Aug. 3, and the earliest teams can practice is Aug. 4. The earliest scrimmage date is Aug. 13 and Aug. 20 was the first day games could be played.

With schools across Dane County still being closed, though, due to COVID-19, Pertzborn knew that playing non-conference games in late-August would be tricky. During a typical year, players are at the high school throughout the summer working out and taking part in speed and strength programs.

Pertzborn said many of his players have been working out on their own, but would be dramatically behind where they normally are when a season begins.

Now, if there is football, Pertzborn would use the first two weeks of August to run many of the off-the-field programs that typically take place in June and July. Practice would then start on Aug. 17 and Middleton’s first game of the year would be Sept. 4 against Beloit.

From there, Big Eight schools would play conference games only.

“There’s just so much up in that air, so much we don’t know right now,” Pertzborn said. “Trying to play games in mid-August was really going to be tough. This is just safer for the kids.”

WIAA executive director Dave Anderson said recently that the expectation is there will be high school sports this fall. Anderson said many of those decisions will be made at the district and conference levels, but if enough schools choose to support competition in fall sports, the WIAA will offer a tournament option for those schools.

“If we have members who are open and want to have a regular season, we will do all within our ability to help those opportunities go forward,” Anderson said. “If our members are open and desire to have a tournament opportunity, until such a time that our Board of Control would point us in a different direction or give us different marching orders, we will do all that we can to provide a tournament opportunity for those members who are open and would desire one. That being said, there will most likely ... need to be adjustments to tournament procedures and those sorts of things.”

Exactly how things look at Middleton — and inside the Big Eight Conference — remains up in the air, though.

Sports such as golf, tennis, cross country and swimming seem to have the best chance of taking place. Football, boys soccer, and both boys and girls volleyball will face far greater challenges.

The Wisconsin Athletic Directors Association will meet next week and discuss recommendations for each sport. The Big Eight A.D.’s will also have their own meeting.

The picture should then begin coming into greater focus.

“There’s a lot of things that we have to get figured out,” Pertzborn said. “How will practices look? How many people can we have in a group? Can they tackle each other? Are we going to be (practicing) all day if we can only work with small groups?

“We need answers on all sorts of things like that. I think we can do it, but we’re starting to run out of time.”

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