Oregon Boys Cross Country - Yordanos Zelinski

Oregon’s Yordanos Zelinski (middle) races Watertown Luther Prep’s Ben Bode (right) and Aquinas’ Mitch Ellis to the finish line at last year’s Verona Invitational. Cross country, girls golf, girls tennis and girls swimming and diving may start practice Aug. 17.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association pushed forward with starting fall sports, but with the stipulation that “higher risk” and “lower risk” sports will be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a special business meeting conducted virtually Thursday, July 23, the WIAA Board of Control approved a plan for the 2020-21 school year to start girls golf, girls tennis, girls swimming and diving and boys and girls cross country – sports deemed “lower risk” on Aug. 17. The “higher risk” sports of football, boys soccer and boys and girls volleyball can start Sept. 7.

The motion to move forward with fall sports was approved 8-3, and also included language that would provide schools and conferences that cannot play in the fall potential opportunities to play in the spring. The WIAA will work to develop spring options for those schools that cancel fall sports.

Whether fall sports will be played this season in the Badger Conference is still unknown. The conference’s athletic directors met virtually Monday, July 27, and delayed a decision on fall sports until Monday, Aug. 3.

The Badger Conference is composed of teams in seven different counties, meaning the athletic directors are dealing with seven separate health departments.

“While no plan will be perfect and there will be challenges with creating new schedules, all of our athletic directors will welcome that challenge if we have the opportunity to be able to offer all sports sometime during the school year,” Oregon athletic director Mike Carr wrote in a fall sports update to families in the school district. “The goal of the Oregon School District, first and foremost, continues to be the health and safety of our entire school community. Regardless of the type of event, health and safety must come first.”

The WIAA also outlined the earliest dates for competition in each fall sport – girls golf (Aug. 20), girls tennis (Aug. 21), boys and girls cross country and girls swimming (Aug. 25), boys soccer and boys and girls volleyball (Sept. 15) and football (Sept. 23 if the first practice is conducted on Sept. 7).

An amendment to move up the start date for “higher risk” sports – which would have been Aug. 24 – failed by a 9-2 vote.

There are no changes to the current summer contact days. Coaches of 11-man football teams have an unrestricted contact period that runs through Aug. 1. All other sports, including 8-man football, have a contact period that runs through Aug. 8.

The end of the fall sports seasons remained unchanged, but the Board indicated sports may or may not culminate with traditional state tournament series. In addition, the winter and spring season calendars were not altered.

It is still unclear if and when any competitions will be permitted within Dane County even after the WIAA’s decision.

The county is still in a modified version of Phase 2 of the Forward Dane reopening plan. Most sporting events are still prohibited in the county. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people or less and outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 or less.

A proposal by administrators from the southwest part of the state – including Platteville, Black Hawk and Darlington – called on the WIAA to move fall sports to spring 2021 and spring sports to the summer. Fall sports would have started in March and concluded in late May, and spring sports would have started in late May and wrapped up in July.

The “Southwest Plan” is still under consideration, though some administrators objected because of a possible shortage of coaches, officials, facilities, fields and courts. Administrators also noted some senior athletes may not choose to play for their high school, AAU or club teams in the summer after they graduate.