Now that there is an alternative option for a fall sports season this spring approved by the WIAA, athletic directors from the Big Eight Conference will be meeting to hammer out a schedule.

Verona Area High School Athletic Director Joel Zimba said Verona is opting into the alternative fall sports season in the spring 2021, and said the key for school districts to get through the COVID-19 pandemic is flexibility.

“It takes into account schools in more restrictive counties, which, hopefully, gives us the best opportunity to have a fall season,” he said of the WIAA’s alternative fall sports plan with reduced spring and winter seasons. “It was not an easy decision to make, but I believe that they made the right decision to consider everyone’s situations.”

On July 21, the Big Eight unanimously agreed to cancel conference fall sports competition. A statement from the conference on Monday, Aug. 17 stated all member schools will opt into the alternate fall season and hope to have conference competition for all sports.

Madison Metropolitan School District athletic director Jeremy Schlitz said Big 8 schedules are being developed, and the conference leaders are altering existing winter and spring seasons to accommodate the change of season start dates.

For the 2020-21 school year, if all member schools are not able to participate fully in conference contests during season dates as scheduled, the Big Eight Conference competitions will not be held and conference champions won’t be crowned.

The conference is planning to allow sport-specific virtual coaching and workouts, provided they do not require or encourage student-athletes and coaches to physically gather.

For out-of-season sports, offseason program rules apply. Coaches are still only allowed five unrestricted contact days and if they haven’t used them over the summer, they can during the school year.

Out-of-season sports coaches can share individual training workouts like stretching, flexibility, warm-up routines, strength and speed training, conditioning and mental preparation. Direct coaching instruction on a sport is prohibited once coaches have used their five contact days.

Zimba said he appreciates the flexibility coaches have in using the contact days.

“These unrestricted contact days will be a local decision,” he said. “It will depend on the situations within each district.”

The next update on timelines and information related to the status of Big 8 athletics and winter sports is expected following the regular Big 8 meeting Oct. 14.