Badger Conference schools will not play any league competitions and conference champions will not be crowned this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The league’s athletic directors announced the cancellation of the fall sports season Thursday, July 30. Many school districts in the conference are looking into moving fall sports back to the spring.
The decision came one week after the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Control voted to delay the fall sports season and gave schools an option to push fall sports back to the spring. The plan approved for the 2020-21 school year is 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.
Stoughton athletic director Mel Dow is a proponent of a unified state plan being developed for a return to fall sports.
“It is disappointing that not all schools are on the same playing field going into this year,” Dow wrote in an email to the Courier Hub. “I understand the desire to get kids active and return to normal programming and there are schools that are able to do so, but we are an association and I would like for us to be treated as one. Schools outside Dane County are not choosing to be impacted by this pandemic, but we are required to do so.”
The Courier Hub obtained a press release sent out by the Badger Conference athletic directors, which gave insight into the fall sports decision.
Complicating matters is the fact that the conference’s 16 schools are spread out across seven counties. Seven schools in the conference are in Dane County.
“This means that plans will vary in different parts of the conference and state, depending on how the virus is spreading in the local area and the guidance from county health departments,” the statement said. “Since all member schools are not able to participate fully in conference contests during the current fall season dates as scheduled, Badger Conference competitions will not be held and conference champions will not be named.”
Dane 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.
Schools in the conference have the option to play nonconference competitions as long as they follow guidelines laid out by local public county health departments and the WIAA.
The WIAA outlined the earliest dates for competition in each fall sport in its revised plan – 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).
Dow said delaying the start of fall sports is one option, but it may not solve the main issue for some schools.
“We can devise ways similar to what we have done with summer contact days to follow all guidelines and still give the kids opportunities to be engaged safely with delays in the competition until it is appropriate,” he said.
All students in the Stoughton Area School District will begin the school year with “enhanced virtual learning.”
“We know that kids are struggling not having social interaction with their peers and understanding all social-distancing expectations,” Dow said. “I believe it is educational to devise a well-structured plan to follow all national, state, and local guidelines and provide outlets for kids to still be engaged with their peers and staff who support those students in extracurricular activities. This is not just an athletic topic, as it includes all extra-curricular activities as well as additional educational support.”