The Arizona Interscholastic Association announced it was postponing all spring high school sports until further notice as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The decision came after Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and Superintendent Kathy Hoffman announced an extension for school closures that will run through April 10. According to a statement released by the AIA, spring postseason tournaments have not been canceled, but discussions centered around resuming play would not be held until school is back in session.
“Arizona Governor Doug Ducey recently announced that all statewide schools will be closed through Friday, April 10,” the AIA said in a release. “With this directive, the AIA and its Executive Board must abide by this decision and require that all AIA member schools not partake in interscholastic competition until further notified.
“The spring sports championships are still not cancelled at this point. However, discussions for the administration of any postseason tournaments will not take place until after schools are back in session.”
The AIA initially voted to not cancel postseason tournaments during its executive board meeting on Monday, March 16. But AIA Executive Director David Hines said he and other board members would continue to monitor the situation and take into account recommendations from state health officials and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We have about 150,000 kids that compete out of 325,000 that are in our high school association. They are very much involved in the activities they do,” Hines said. "The first thing is, what can we do to try and give them some opportunity, if we can? We have been paying attention to the state health department, and as we move forward, we are going to use that and the CDC's information.
"As long as schools are closed, we wanted to make sure people knew there would be not athletic competition."
All games and scrimmages across the state seized immediately following the AIA’s initial ruling. It was not immediately clear whether those games would be made up or canceled.
Even when school resumes session, Hines and the AIA left it up to their discretion to further cancel games out of precaution. Should schools decide to do so, the AIA said it will respect those decisions and cancellation fees will be waived.
“We just have to wait and see,” Mesa Public Schools District Athletic Director Steve Hogan said. “I think that’s good. Let’s take this opportunity to say not to make a decision until you have to.”
The AIA said in its release it would leave it up to member schools to decide whether or not practices for spring sports teams continue, an idea Hogan wasn’t keen on.
“I’m not real big on the idea of leaving it up to schools to practice,” Hogan said, “I think that should be something we all do the same.”
Some district and school athletic directors in attendance Monday gathered outside the AIA office shortly after the ruling. Most, including Mesa Public Schools and Gilbert Public Schools, said they would not allow teams to practice.
Tempe Union High School District Athletic Director Bruce Kipper said in a text message, officials have "shut down all athletics and activities, including practice."
Dr. Camille Casteel, the superintendent of the Chandler Unified School District, said she and District Athletic Director Marcus Williams would gather input from parents regarding whether or not to continue practices.
"I indicated to him that we need to get parental input and draw up a proposal to keep our kids safe," she said. "Whether it's through extraordinary sanitizing and keeping the numbers below the 50 mark. But having that parent support is going to be key."
Monday afternoon, it was announced all Chandler district athletic teams would not practice. Scottsdale Unified School District also said teams would not practice during the two-week closure.
Scottsdale Unified School District announced in a statement Monday afternoon all of its athletic programs would also not practice during the two-week suspension of play.
Michael Fowler, Higley’s district athletic director, said he worked closely with Aaron Dille and Darrell Stangle, the athletic directors at Higley and Williams Field high schools, to communicate with coaches to not practice during the suspension.
“This is an unusual time,” Fowler said. “You just pause for a minute and think where we were last Monday. It makes me think where we will be next week. The safety of our student athletes is absolutely paramount. We need to do what we can to keep them safe.”
Mountain View Athletic Director Roxanne Perrin, who was in attendance, said she had received several questions regarding practice from her coaches.
“We’ve been telling them the kids can get together on their own without coaches,” Perrin said. “I don’t think that message is going to change.”
All rules and bylaws in the AIA handbook will still be applied during the two-week hiatus. That includes rule 14.2.2, which does not allow athletes from different schools to practice or train with one another during the season. Hines said kids from the same school can train together, but should they get any instruction it has to be limited to one-on-one.
“I was hoping for a little more clarification on that,” Hogan said. “I’m concerned there will be kids who break a bylaw because they inadvertently get together and go to some event or are at some batting cage together and not have a clue, they’re breaking the bylaw.”
One change that will take place, however, involves transfers. Should spring sports resume as scheduled, student athletes that were forced to sit for half the season will have eligibility restored immediately.
Perrin was pleased the board's decision.
“This has been such a fluid situation and things have been changing consistently,” Perrin said. “Our biggest concern is keeping our kids and our coaches safe and so having that two-week buffer where we aren’t having school and not practicing, I’m in favor of that.”