No high school football: DIAA moves 2020 fall sports into next year

 

2019 Division 1 champs Hodgson VoTech will not be able to defend its title this year.

2019 Division 1 champs Hodgson VoTech will not be able to defend its title this year.

Delaware’s fall sports will be moved into next year, after winter sports, the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association voted Thursday.

The vote was 15 yeses, zero no’s and one abstention from Doug Thompson, a member of the public from New Castle County.

“All seasons would have six weeks of regular season competition and two weeks for tournament play,” a DIAA PowerPoint read.

Winter sports practices begin Dec. 14, with fall sports practices starting Feb. 19 and spring sports practices starting April 19.

 

That plan could change.

“Every time we make a plan, we encounter another roadblock,” said Kevin Fitzgerald, superintendent of the Caesar Rodney School District and a DIAA board member. “We are continuing to offer every child the opportunity to participate in the sports they love.”

The recommendation calls for the first fall sports competitions on March 12 and the last by April 21. The football tournament would be condensed to four teams per division.

“Other tournaments could run as normal,” the PowerPoint says.

 

The recommendation calls for winter sports starting Jan. 4 and ending by Feb. 15. Spring sports would start May 10 and end June 19.

“All-state tournaments could run as normal,” the PowerPoint says for winter and spring sports.

Bradley Layfield, the DIAA’s chair, asked for those dates to be sent to member schools – and members of the public – for feedback, with a final vote in September.

The vote echoes decisions made in Maryland and the District of Columbia, board members were told. Pennsylvania, with the spread of coronavirus varying across the commonwealth, was leaning to individual districts making decisions about fall sports, Fitzgerald said. In the Philadelphia area, with a higher spread, districts are delaying fall sports, he said.

 

During the meeting, a participant confirmed how quickly things change by saying that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf had just called for no sports until next year.

A survey of Delaware’s district superintendents said that transportation is a pressing issue. Delaware Department of Public Health guidelines mean that a bus that holds 72 passengers would “basically” be limited to 23, Fitzgerald said.

Of course, the nature of the sports themselves is an issue. However, the Delaware Division of Public Health is concerned about football, with all that tackling and huddling, and later with wrestling, with all that close contact, according to the department’s Dana Carr.

“Physical distancing … is impossible,” she said.

 

The DPH has also issued guidelines that would “change the rules” for basketball, field hockey and soccer, said Dr. Bradley Bley, a sports medicine specialist in Middletown and a member of the DIAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

Some sports-specific guidelines “are not feasible,” said Layfield.

The DIAA made its decision during a virtual meeting that drew about 250 people. Outdoor activities tend to be less worrisome for coronavirus transmission, Carr said, and ventilation is key for indoor sports.

“We would be encouraging everyone on the field to be wearing a mask,” she said.

 

Public Health has issued guidance to mitigate transmission, such as social distancing when off the field, extra attention to cleaning and reduced count on buses. Carr said DPH would defer to the DIAA to consider how to run specific sports based on them.

“A coin toss?” she asked. “That’s a DIAA decision.”

At the meeting, participants discussed how other sports – from youth leagues and travel teams to professionals – are going on.

Scholastic athletes “should not be discriminated against,” said Ted Laws, a Colonial School District board member and DIAA board member.

 

Outdoor activities tend to be less worrisome for coronavirus transmission, Carr said, and ventilation is key for indoor sports.

“We would be encouraging everyone on the field to be wearing a mask,” she said.

The Delaware Association of Athletic Directors had earlier considered moving fall sports into spring but instead presented a plan to the DIAA for a shortened fall season.

 

“We’re very concerned about the mental health of student athletes across the state,” said Jeremy Jeanne, Glasgow High’s athletic director and DAAD president. He cited Wisconsin findings revealing anxiety and depression among student athletes.

The DIAA PowerPoint that included the schedule began by noting any decision relies on guidelines by the Delaware Department of Education, Division of Public Health and the National Federation of State High School Associations.

 


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Ken Mammarella

Ken Mammarella is a freelance writer who lives in Wilmington.