The Virginia High School League is expected to approve it’s “Championships +1” schedule for the 2020-21 sports season today at an VHSL Executive Committee meeting.
The VHSL announced a draft of the plan on Aug. 24 and was supposed to meet again on Sept. 3 but pushed it back to today to give them more time to get feedback and make changes if needed. Local athletic directors did not expect there to be major changes to the draft.
However, Warren County Athletic Director Ed Dike said that on Tuesday the VHSL had a Zoom conference call with athletic directors and told them they should not be finalizing any schedules yet.
“They said you people that are out there making your schedules you better hold on, because it might not happen the way we said,” Dike said.
He said that they gave no more details than that. Dike said one problem the VHSL could face is many school divisions are handling things in different ways.
“Prince William (County) is on a very different deal than we are right now,” Dike said. “Their teachers aren’t even allowed in the building without permission. I think Manassas Park has just now been allowed to start doing any sort of training or anything. Everybody’s got kind of a different thing going on.”
In July, the VHSL voted to push the fall season back due to the COVID-19 pandemic until after the winter season and go with three condensed seasons so that every sport could still have a chance to play.
If the VHSL approves the drafted plan, boys and girls basketball practices would start on Dec. 7 with the first contests being held on Dec. 21. The winter season would end on Feb. 20, the fall season would start Feb. 4 and end on May 1. The spring season would start on April 12 and end on June 26. With the plan, each sport would play approximately 60% of their normal schedule.
It is being called the “Championships +1 schedule” because if teams don’t advance to regionals, they will be allowed to play one additional game against any opponent, who is also not playing in regionals, of their choosing.
Central Athletic Director Justin Broughman said he sees good and bad with the addition of an extra game.
“On the one hand, I like the idea since the schedules are so limited,” Broughman said. “Right now, it’s like 12 baseball games isn’t very many, 10 soccer games isn’t many. So if you didn’t make your top eight in the region, you’re able to participate in an extra game. But then I think about that and if you’re the ninth through the 13th seed, do you necessarily want to play an extra game? Does an 0-12 baseball team want to go out there and lose again or something? I think it’s got some pros and cons to it.
“Football’s probably the one though where it does make sense to do it from a gate perspective and just because people enjoy football.”
If the draft were approved, the first football practice would be on Feb. 4 and the first football games would be Feb. 22.
Every sport would still hold a state championship. Only one team from each region would make the state tournaments.
Team state championships would be hosted by the team at the top of the bracket if the venue meets VHSL state tournament site requirements; otherwise, the game would be hosted in a facility in the geographic area that meets the requirements.
Indoor track and swimming dates are uncertain due to venue availability.
There would be fewer individuals qualifying for individual state meets to make things safer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wrestling would hold eight-person brackets and have a one-day state tourney. Cross country would advance just one team and top five individuals from each region. Indoor track would advance only top three region finishers in each event. Outdoor track would advance only the top four region finishers in each event. Swimming would only take the top four region finishers in each event. Golf would take one team and three individuals per region.
Despite a push from some in the state, Broughman said he did not expect the overall start date of the season to be moved up much, if at all.
On Monday, there were 50 players, parents and coaches who held a rally at Capitol Square in Richmond.
The VHSL released a statement in response to the rally.
“We fully understand and support the passion of high school sports from our school communities, parents, and students,” the VHSL states in the release. “From day one, we have been committed to getting our students participating in activities safely and responsibly. There has been a tremendous amount of input and cooperation from principals, superintendents, activity directors, coaches, and members of various communities.
“The VHSL and its member schools have worked tirelessly over the past several months to create a plan for our students to participate in VHSL sponsored athletics and activities. Our Executive Committee will meet (today) to approve and adopt our ‘Championships + 1’ schedule for the FY 2021 Athletic and Academic Activities season. This schedule provides every VHSL sponsored activity a season during the FY2021 year. VHSL staff and Executive Committee will continue to work in cooperation [with] the VHSL Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) to develop a list of recommended guidelines for school divisions as they prepare for the safe reopening of high school sports and activities.”
Dike said that he wasn’t sure if there was any chance they could move things up, but he doesn’t feel like every school would be ready to play soon.
“They wanted to start football right now,” Dike said of the rally held in Richmond. “Well, that’s all well and good but are all the schools in the state ready to do that? Probably not. Some districts have been doing a lot of stuff, some districts haven’t been doing much of anything at all. You’re comparing apples to oranges there. That’s the whole thing with what the VHSL tries to accomplish is equality among all the schools. I don’t know how you can do that.”
As of this week, 35 states are playing football in the fall with the other 15 pushing the season back to 2021.
Dike said that he has watched some high school football on ESPN the last few weeks and saw a big difference in how states are handling it.
“You see some of the schools are very serious, like Utah’s,” he said. “Utah schools got masks. They got everything spread out as much as possible. The Georgia high school game on Friday night the place was jammed. There were no masks, everybody was packed in on the sidelines. They got the wild, wild west going on down there and everybody else is trying to be careful.”
Dike said that it’s too early to tell what will happen with the high school season as everything keeps changing from day to day.
“I think the keyword is fluid,” he said. “We just kind of gotta go and if it swings that way we go that way and we go with it. And if it goes another way then we got to figure out that way too.”