By JOE ANGOLIA, KHSAA
The Board of Control conducted a virtual meeting Tuesday morning via Zoom, during which time it addressed the future of the 2020 fall sports season. With 17 members voting in favor (and one member abstaining), the Board approved a plan to leave fall sports in the fall and begin official fall practice on August 24th in Cross Country, Field Hockey, Soccer, Volleyball, and Football, with the first date of competition set for September 11th for Football and September 7th for the remaining fall sports.
“Our board strongly believes in the tremendous psychological advantages formed through the relationships between our student-athletes and their school coaches and school personnel, as well as the strong community values surrounding interscholastic, education-based athletics,” said KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett. “College and professional sports are great, but our unique opportunity to build relationships with our neighbors within one state is not one we take for granted.”
Competitive Cheer and Dance were also approved to begin official practice on August 24 with a strong recommendation that all activity be held outdoors where safety equipment and conditions will permit. All approved fall sports will be restricted to 7.5 hours of practice during the first week, with full practice allowances beginning Monday, August 31. KHSAA staff will produce a specific calendar for football acclimation and preparation for the first competition week.
“Our Board, composed of school personnel and community leaders, feels much more comfortable managing the efforts of our students with athletics under the supervision of our trained coaches as opposed to those in other leagues and levels,” said Tackett. “Even this summer, parents and students have proven that play in sports will go on, even during a pandemic. Such play has a strong likelihood of positive outcomes when led by our school representatives.
“In the coming weeks, we will continue to push for the citizens of our state to come together and drive down our data points to where everyone is more comfortable going forward throughout the school year in partnership with our schools,” added Tackett. “It is very easy and shows visible support for interscholastic athletics by adhering to the three public health obligations – always wear a mask or face covering, social distance as recommended, and proper handwashing.”
The Board approved adjustments to the postseason format in Soccer and the schedule in Football, moving the start of the Soccer postseason to Oct. 12 in order to condense the first three rounds into two weeks. Each round of the Football postseason was pushed back a week, with the first round games now scheduled for Nov. 13-14 and the finals set for Dec. 11-12. Football teams have the option to add an additional regular-season contest Nov. 6-7 for a maximum of nine regular-season games.
With the regular season window shortened for fall sports, the Board approved a modification to Bylaw 23 (Limitation of Seasons) for 2020-21, removing the allowance for interscholastic scrimmages while adjusting the number of permissible contests in each of the fall sports as a result of the new starting date: Cross Country (9), Field Hockey (16), Football (9), Soccer (14), and Volleyball (24).
The Board also implemented several restrictions in regards to Bylaw 22 (Contests, Sanctions, Rules) in an effort to address social distancing and combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Until further revised, the KHSAA will not approve member school participation in any event where NFHS sanctioning is required. In addition, participation in non-NFHS sanctioned events in the team sports of Baseball, Basketball, Field Hockey, Soccer, Softball and Volleyball will be restricted to no more than eight teams until further notice. Schedule travel restrictions were also put in place by the Board, as member schools will only be permitted to play schools located in Kentucky or located in a county that directly borders Kentucky until further notice.
To help ensure appropriate social distancing and until further notice, the Board established limits on players in uniform in regular season interscholastic competition to match current region and state event limits as such: Cross Country (10), Field Hockey (24), Soccer (24) and Volleyball (15) per contest. A limit was placed on Football as well with sixty players being permitted to be in uniform.
The Board addressed postseason seeding as well, approving a motion that all districts that have voted to seed will be reduced to a one-game seed plan until further notice. If teams play multiple times, the first game played shall be counted as the seeded game. Seed games unable to be played directly related to Covid-19 will be handled per the Board’s July action and the staff was directed to intercede and resolve contest disputes.