DIAA must wait on decision

DOVER — The DIAA’s board of directors know everybody just wants to play sports again.

They want to see student-athletes back on the field, too.

But until some bigger decisions are made about state coronavirus pandemic regulations, the DIAA’s hands are more or less tied.

That was the bottom line at the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association’s July board meeting on Thursday.

As much as they know coaches, players and fans want to know what the high school fall sports schedule is going to look like, they need Gov. John Carney and other state officials to decide what’s going to be permitted.

That announcement isn’t expected until the first or second week of August.

“It’s a painful process in which a lot of people contribute and you finally reach the decision or you find the direction you want to go in,” said Caesar Rodney superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, a DIAA board member. “And then you find out, before you can do that, there’s all these other things that have to take place.

“I wish we would have been able to accomplish more than just talk about certain things today. But that seemed as though, from the start, that’s all we were ever going to be able to do.”

Sussex Central High principal Dr. Bradley Layfield, the DIAA board chairman, knows that people are anxious about the situation.

“I think the frustration we have, not just as a board but coaches, ADs and everyone is the unknown,” he said. “We’re all kind of type ‘A’ personalties and want to have a plan in place that we’ll then be able to execute.”

The issue at the moment is the timing of all the decisions that need to be made.

If the governor sets up the guidelines in early August then the DIAA can come up with a sports plan at its next board meeting on Aug. 13. The problem is that the state Board of Education would then need to approve that plan at its next meeting on Aug. 20.

However, Delaware schools are supposed to be able to start preseason practice on Aug. 17.

So a good deal of Thursday’s conversation centered on the DIAA and state board’s ability to hold special meetings earlier than scheduled.

“Anything we do needs to be backed by regulation,” said Layfield. “And in order to get any regulation passed, the state board has to come in. In an emergency situation, it’s not ideal to be able to respond in a more timely manor.

“Once we get the updated guidance from the governor’s office, we should be able to act.”

But officials said that not having a clear direction yet doesn’t mean that there won’t be sports played in Delaware this school year.
“Really I think the science is looking more favorably towards playing athletics,” said Fitzgerald. “I think the board, in general, would like to see athletics take place — and sooner rather than later.

“But we also need to look out for everything within the school district and to make sure that we can open schools.”

Football still looks like it will be the most difficult sport to resume.

While neighboring states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey say they’re going to play football this fall, other states have either delayed the start of the season or are looking at playing football in the spring.

“I think the question is there’s more discussion that needs to be had with regard to football,” said Fitzgerald. “I think the medical guidance with regards to football is still not there.”

There was discussion on Thursday about whether or not it would be fair to delay the start of just one sport.

The DIAA did look at some concrete possibilities for rearranging this school year’s sports schedule.

Two scenarios had the regular seasons all being played starting in December or later: Winter sports (Jan. 4-Feb. 15), Fall sports (March 12-April 19), and Spring sports (May 10-June 19); Or, Winter sports (Dec. 28-Feb. 6), Fall season (Feb. 22-April 1) and Spring season (April 26-June 4).

Those were just possibilities, though.

Whatever plan the DIAA decides on, it will fall on the state’s athletic directors to handle the ramifications. Layfield said the ADs deserve a lot of credit for dealing with the changes.

“Thank God for a lot of really smart athletic directors that can get together to put some plans out there,” said Layfield. “As soon as it’s safely possible, let’s return to somewhat normal — not only with instruction but with athletics.

“It may happen sooner, it may happen later. But if and when it happens, the ADs are able to hash out multiple options.”