The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association stated throughout its process of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic that it would continue to be in alliance with the directives issued by Gov. Tony Evers in relation to the closure or reopening of schools.
When Evers extended the “Safer at Home” order to May 26, he ordered all public and private K-12 schools to remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. The possibility of WIAA spring sports looked bleak.
On Tuesday, April 21, the WIAA Board of Control made the decision all spring athletes, coaches, athletic directors and fans feared. The Board of Control voted 10-1 to cancel all 2020 spring sports competitions and spring state tournament series.
The decision impacts baseball, softball, boys golf, girls soccer, boys tennis and boys and girls track and field.
“In (Evers’) press conference, I think it was made abundantly clear that spring sports are canceled until June 30,” WIAA Executive Director Dave Anderson said. “We don’t want to lose sight of that fact or confuse that fact in any of our conversations.”
The chance of spring sports competitions took a big hit April 10, when the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced its extension to cancel campus events through June 30. UW’s decision eliminated the possibility of conducting WIAA state tournaments scheduled at campus venues.
The events impacted by the closure included the boys individual and team tennis tournaments scheduled at Madison’s Nielsen Tennis Stadium on June 4-6 and June 12-13, respectfully; the boys golf championship at Verona’s University Ridge Golf Course on June 15-16; and the softball tournament at Madison’s Goodman Diamond on June 11-13.
The WIAA stated its officials worked on contingency plans for the spring sports season. Some schools began practice before Evers’ first executive order, but all interscholastic training, practices, scrimmages and contests were suspended.
Dr. Kevin Walter, who works for the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and has been a member of the WIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee since 2006, advised the Board of Control. He provided the Board with information about where the state is in controlling the outbreak and made recommendations for spring and fall sports.
Walter suggested a possible grace period for sports physicals in the future, and said, “it is too early to make any decisions about fall sports. He also said it is easier to socially distance and control the spread of COVID-19 in golf compared to other spring sports, but the WIAA clarified high school golf teams could not begin practice with courses opening up statewide Friday, April 24.
Anderson recommended the Board of Control cancel the spring sports season, but allow for unrestricted coaching contact in the summer for spring sports, provided coaches include the current year’s seniors.
His motion passed, as the Board also voted to expand out-of-season coaching to 30 unrestricted contact days for spring sports athletes, pending local health guidelines.
Spring coaches will have 30 unrestricted contact days with their spring athletes, provided they include graduating seniors. Virtual coaching can continue through June 30 (or when state order would allow) before the 30 contact days would begin.
Fall and winter sports contact days are not changed or impacted.
Acclimatization rules must still be followed and contact must follow Gov. Evers’ orders.
“We are not opposed to spring sport coaches continuing contact with their athletes,” Anderson said. “They are technically in-season until the season is over.”
The Wisconsin Athletic Directors Association is still conducting statewide surveys about a variety of issues, including paying spring coaches and changes made to grading and graduation dates.