Friday night lights won’t be returning in 2020 for high school sports fans in Kitsap.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association made it official Tuesday that just about all fall sports will be moved to the spring under a four-season plan that, for the most part, begins in 2021.
Football, volleyball and girls soccer are now all scheduled for season three, which is due to begin March 1, except for football, which can begin practices a week earlier on Feb. 22.
Not every fall sport has been postponed. Those deemed lower-risk, such as cross country, golf, tennis and slowpitch softball are still scheduled to begin Sept. 7 — if Kitsap is in Phase 3 of the governor’s “Safe Start” plan. Girls swim and dive may also start in the fall as well, but WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman said they are still looking for guidance from the Department of Health since swimming takes place indoors.
Those dates are also, of course, subject to change as the COVID-19 pandemic situation evolves in Washington.
“When you’re looking at dates, those are definitely written in pencil,” Hoffman said.
Fall sports are slated to wrap up with a championship event during the week of Nov. 2. After that, there’s an approximately two month break before traditional winter sports — basketball, bowling, boys swim and dive, wrestling, gymnastics and cheerleading — are due to begin Jan. 4, 2021.
On the long break between seasons one and two, Hoffman said it gives the WIAA and its member schools time and room to complete the season since the pandemic is a fluid situation, at least for the near future.
“It was a cautious approach to give us some flexibility in the fall,” Hoffman said, “but also an opportunity to pivot if we’re not able to start on time.”
Season three will consist of volleyball, girls soccer, football and possibly girls swim and dive if it cannot take place in the fall. Those sports would finish up the week of April 26. Season four comprises the regular spring sports of baseball, fastpitch softball, track and field, boys soccer, tennis, golf and dance/drill and championship week is set for June 21 through June 27.
The WIAA felt that it couldn’t go forward with most fall sports, especially football, which involves far more athletes in close contact than any other sport.
“I don’t think there was anyone in the virtual board room that felt we could get the high-risk sport of football played in the fall,” said WIAA president Greg Whitmore.
Whitmore, who is also the AD and football coach at Lind-Ritzville-Sprague, noted football’s importance to school districts’ athletic budgets — along with basketball and volleyball, it tends to be the biggest money-generator — which is why the WIAA had to find a way to play rather than cancel it outright.
“If we can’t have football, we’re going to struggle for a couple of years to get our ASB budget back up,” Whitmore said.
Other possible changes could be in the works, though none are set in stone — there could be a more regionalized or sectionalized approach to awarding state championships, which would help limit costly travel and long overnight trips.
Hoffman said the WIAA is also going to find a way to be “flexible” regarding students who play more than one sport, but could see an overlap in seasons.
And the threat of COVID-19 wiping out a team’s season will also remain an ever-present possibility. A player who tests positive will have to quarantine for 14 days along with anyone who was in close contact with the player.