DIAA pitches condensed 2020 high school sports season

From left, Cape’s Haley Craig in the 2019 D-I field hockey final; Woodbridge’s Ricky Kane during the 2019 D-II state tournament; and Smyrna volleyball player Sophia Basler. (Delaware State News file photos)

DOVER — High school athletes won’t compete this fall under a proposal by the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association, but instead hope to play a shorter season early next year.

The DIAA Board of Directors voted Thursday to support a condensed sports schedule for the upcoming high school academic year that puts fall teams playing between shorter winter and spring seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All sports would have six weeks of regular season competition and two more weeks for tournaments under this model, the DIAA said. Members of the DIAA board said the condensed model would buy time for guidance on football and wrestling, neither of which is currently allowed by the Delaware Division of Public Health.

The vote was 15-0 with one board member, Doug Thompson, abstaining.

The winter season would begin first with the first day of practice on Monday, Dec. 14, according to the proposal outlined by the DIAA. The first date of competition would be Monday, Jan 4 and the last day would be Monday, Feb. 15. All state tournaments would run as normal.

Fall sports would start up on Friday, Feb. 19 for the first day of practice, with competition running from Friday, March 12 to Wednesday, April 21. Football, if able to be played, would end competition on Saturday, April 17, allowing for a six-game regular season.

Football would run a condensed tournament with four teams per division. All other fall sports tournaments would run as normal.

The athletic year would end with a spring season, which will start practice on Monday, April 19. Competition will run from Monday, May 10 to Saturday, June 19. State tournaments will be ran as normal in the spring as well.

The list of fall sports now moving to February includes boys’ soccer, football, boys’ and girls’ cross country, girls’ volleyball, field hockey and unified flag football.

All dates are subjected to change.

The DIAA also amended some of its rules due to the unique situation presented by the pandemic.

First was allowing schools operating with a hybrid model, half online and half in school, and those operating with remote-learning to participate in sports as long as the building remains open to staff.

This decision was necessary after Gov. John Carney recommended a hybrid reopening of schools this week. The districts will still decide how their own schools will reopen — some could opt for full remote-learning, like the Colonial School District in New Castle County has already decided.

Another amended DIAA rule was the proposal to extend its summer out-of-season coaching rules through the fall. This would let teams work out during the fall while there won’t be any games going on.

This decision requires approval from State Board of Education, which is scheduled to meet Aug. 20. If approved, the out-of-season coaching rules would be effective until the first day of winter sports practice.

The status of football and wrestling will be revisited soon.

Dana Carr from the DPH said those two sports cannot be played in Delaware currently, due to the amount of face-to-face contact. Ms. Carr said the DPH will reassess the status of football and wrestling in four to six weeks, calling it an ongoing process.

“We’re still learning about what’s the best way to balance the mitigation of risk and being as free as we can,” Ms. Carr said. “We’re also learning what mitigation is really critical and vital, and what we can maybe loosen up on.”

Board member Jeremy Jeanne said while football and wrestling are up in the air, the proposal agreed upon Thursday will hopefully guarantee a season for numerous athletes. The DIAA canceled all spring sports this past season due to COVID-19 and no high school games have been played since March 9 before the basketball postseason was canceled.

“If we can’t save all sports,” Mr. Jeanne said, “we’d want to save some.”

The DIAA vote is similar to decisions in surrounding states.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Department of Education announced on Thursday that it has jointly recommended Pre-K–12 school and recreational youth sports be postponed until at least Jan. 1.

Meanwhile in Maryland, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) announced the postponement of the 2020 high school fall and winter competition season during the first semester on Monday.

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