In response to Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order that will delay the start of in-person classes for the 2020-21 school year, the Arizona Interscholastic Association has also delayed all school-related athletics until at least Aug 17.
The original first day of football practice was July 27, with other fall sports OK to start in the following weeks.
“We couldn’t be more disappointed about the information that just came out regarding our schools. However, we understand that the most pressing concern is to ensure our student-athletes can return to school in the safest way possible,” AIA Executive Director David Hines stated in a press release.
With the delay of in-person schooling, questions abound about if there is even a return in sight for athletics, but AIA Sports Information Coordinator Seth Polansky said the organization remains prepared to accommodate a full athletic year.
There has been informal discussion about rearranging the seasons or possibly pushing back the seasons and finishing in the summer, but the AIA has not made any decisions yet.
“The seasons will only be pushed back further if the timeline shifts for school reopening plans. If students will be back in school on Aug. 17, then the options currently being discussed regarding fall sports will be implemented and would not affect the winter and spring seasons,” Polansky said.
In a July 10 press release, the AIA listed more details about how fall schedules can be modified if the state is able to return to in-person school on Aug. 17. The details are:
Football – For 2A-6A, an 8-10 game schedule can be achieved by starting competition on the week of Sept. 7. The current playoff structure may have to be adjusted after input from the membership. 1A football is currently looking at modifications, if necessary.
The remainder of the fall sports can be adjusted slightly to possibly ensure complete regular seasons.
It is possible that regular season invitationals and tournaments may be limited or cancelled due to venue allowances and other restrictions.
Estimated start dates for competition if schools open Aug. 17 are
“Going by the governor’s timeline of schools reopening on Aug. 17, there would only be a delay of one to three weeks to begin competition, depending on the sport.
However, everything is tied into the Aug. 17 reopening date and approval by the AIA’s Executive Board for modified schedules,” Polansky said.
If athletics do follow suit after an Aug. 17 start date of school, the AIA will have an athletic protocol for each school to follow before the return to play.
That translates to a post-Labor Day start for fall sports other than golf and badminton.
“We will not compete until they have met three-and-a-half to four weeks of practice that are required in our bylaws,” Hines stated in a video. “All the bylaws and rules that we have in place currently will be required to be followed. We just will start later than we traditionally would."
When school athletics return, do not expect business as usual. Schools will still be required to follow the governor’s guidelines which means fans might still not be able to attend until it’s deemed safe.
“Gov. Ducey has a phased approach to come back to some type of normalcy. Currently, we are in phase 1. Phase 2 allows groups of up to 50, and phase 3 you can have more people involved,” Hines stated in a video question and answer session.
The AIA is watching the situation and trying to continue to make the best and safest decisions possible to ensure there will be sports for the upcoming year, Hines stated.
“We will do everything in our power to make sure that when we get back up and going again, the transition will be as seamless as possible and to create memorable interscholastic experiences. We’ll be able to accomplish that as long as everyone does their part to stay safe and prevent the spread of the virus,” Hines stated in a news release.