Eagles hoping to have fall sports

Boyer ‘hopeful’ Sauk Prairie will play
Rob Reischel

Nobody was breaking out streamers, balloons and a cake.

But the overall mood inside Sauk Prairie’s athletic department was one of great excitement last Thursday.

The WIAA Board of Control voted 8-3 to attempt to have a fall sports season, although the start dates were delayed due to circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Girls golf, girls swimming, girls tennis and boys and girls cross country — all considered low-risk by health officials — can begin practicing Aug. 17. Football, boys soccer, and both boys and girls volleyball — which are considered the higher risk sports — cannot begin practice until the week of Sept. 7.

The earliest dates for the first competitions are Aug. 20 for girls golf, Aug. 21 for girls tennis, Aug. 25 for cross country, and girls swimming and diving. The earliest permissible date for the first boys soccer, and boys and girls volleyball contests are Sept. 15. And the first possible football game may be scheduled for Sept. 23 if the first practice is conducted on Sept. 7.

Sauk Prairie athletic director Josh Boyer said his hope is that all of the Eagles’ sports can start on the new dates.

“Right now, we are operating under the premise that we will begin fall sports on the new start dates as approved by the WIAA’s Board of Control,” Boyer said. “With that being said, we will continue to follow state and local health agencies on what is allowable under their guidelines. Things are fluid and can change, but we are hopeful of offering something this fall.”

At Wisconsin Heights, athletic director Andy Pickett said he won’t have any concrete answers until the Capitol Conference A.D.’s meet on Aug. 6.

While Sauk Prairie plans to offer sports, many schools inside the Badger Conference may not.

The Badger Conference includes 16 schools in seven different counties – Dane, Sauk, Rock, Green, Jefferson, Dodge and Columbia. Seven of the schools are in Dane County — Madison Edgewood, Monona Grove, Oregon, Stoughton, DeForest, Mount Horeb and Waunakee.

Each county has different guidelines and restrictions related to COVID-19, and Dane County is one of the most restrictive.

School districts in Mount Horeb, Monona Grove and Waunakee have already announced plans to return to the classroom virtually this fall. Sports may not be permitted without in-person schooling.

If that happens, Boyer will have to be creative when it comes to scheduling.

Badger Conference athletic directors met Monday to discuss options for the fall. No decisions were made and the group will meet again on Aug. 3.

“Our biggest challenge, and one I think needs to be known and understood is that even though the WIAA’s Board of Control made that decision about fall sports start dates, that was not a green light that all schools can have sports,” Boyer said. “There is a very real chance that (some) schools in our conference will not be able to play this fall, and some that will.  

“That likelihood will result in changes to schedules and conference awards. We also need to work out guidelines for attending games and events for those schools who are able to hold sports. We are hoping to have some clarity on those items soon.”

The end of the fall sports seasons remained unchanged, but the Board indicated the season may or may not culminate with a traditional tournament series. The length and beginning of the tournament series will be determined in the days ahead. In addition, the winter and spring season calendars were not altered.

“Because of the Board’s action, while they can’t make any guarantees that things will work out as we plan them, they have given us the opportunity to at least hope and work in that direction,” WIAA Executive Director Dave Anderson said. “We understand this decision will make some happy and others disappointed, but we will do our best to deliver to our membership what they have directed us to do.”

Another component of the Board’s decision provides schools, which are unable to start fall sports in 2020, an opportunity to conduct their fall seasons in the spring. The Board directed the executive staff to develop details and calendars for an alternative three-sport season in the second semester of the 2020-21 school year to be presented at a later date. 

The alternate three-sport season plan was derived from a proposal submitted to the WIAA executive staff by school district administrators from the southwest area of the state. 

Boyer is hopeful, though, that fall sports can remain in the fall.

“Based on how everything has gone since this past March, I believe there is cautious optimism,” he said. “In the back of our minds, there’s a little bit of hesitancy to be full-go and not worry things could change.  

“I will say that since we started welcoming kids back on campus July 6 for summer school as well as contact days and open gyms, our coaches have been excited and happy to see and work with the kids. I have enjoyed seeing kids doing things they love!

“So we are hopeful, but also realists to know a lot of work still lies ahead and this fall. If a season is had, will not be like a ‘normal’ fall season.”


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