Fall sports now on life support

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By: 
Rob Reischel
The Big Eight Conference won't be holding any conference events, nor will it crown champions this fall./File photo

Fall sports at Middleton High School and inside the Big Eight Conference are on life support.

The Big Eight announced Tuesday that schools can’t hold conference competitions this fall, nor will it crown champions. That measure passed by a vote of 10-0.

Schools do have the option, though, of scheduling non-conference competitions in any fall sports, so long as they follow the guidance of the WIAA and local public health officials. Middleton athletic director Jamie Sims said Tuesday afternoon, though, that for the time being there MHS won’t schedule any non-conference events.

Sims said when Public Health Madison and Dane County moves to Phase 3 of its Forward Dane re-opening plan, Middleton will consider scheduling non-conference events.

Sports played in the fall include football, boys soccer, girls golf, girls tennis, girls swimming, boys and girls cross country and boys and girls volleyball.

“Our coaches were disappointed, as I would expect them to be,” Sims said. “Our goals is to see our sports taking place, but the health and safety of our student-athletes matters the most.

“We’re hopeful that we can still have some type of season and we’ll continue to do our jobs. But right now, we think this is the best approach.”

The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District voted Monday to begin the school year with all-virtual learning. Much like the past spring season and the summer contact period, when school facilities are closed, in-person practices or workouts aren’t allowed.

That means for the time being, Middleton’s fall teams won't be able to conduct practices.

The WIAA Board of Control will meet virtually Thursday at 9 a.m. to discuss how to proceed with fall sports across the state.

One plan that will receive consideration would delay all fall sports until March, 2021 and have those sports run until late May. Spring sports would then be pushed to June and July of 2021.

Under that proposal, winter sports would be the first athletic competitions of the 2020-21 athletics calendar.

Several districts have issues with that plan, though. Among the concerns are:

• Many athletes would have to choose between playing for their high schools or for their summer club teams, which would leave several high schools struggling to field teams.

• Several graduating seniors are likely to bypass summer sports and move to the next phase of their lives. Once again, fielding teams would become a concern at many high schools.

• Several athletic directors are concerned about having enough coaches. Many coaches that are available during one part of the year wouldn’t be available if their season gets moved, which could lead to a coaching shortage.

• School districts start their new financial year each July. So, many schools wouldn't want sports from one year carrying into the start of the next year.

• Finding fields, courts and other facilities could be an issue in many areas if seasons are moved.

The WIAA Board of Control makes the final decision on fall sports and could approve, adjust or reject this proposal. Once the WIAA makes a ruling, there will be much more clarity for fall sports teams at Middleton — and across the entire state.

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