Just two weeks away from the scheduled start of official high school football practices and yet the future of the fall sports season as a whole remains unclear.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association announced Thursday after its meeting with its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee that it would hold a special Executive Board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 2. According to the AIA, the special meeting will be used to discuss a report provided by SMAC.
At this point, it’s unclear what the report from SMAC said. It’s also unknown whether it included recommendations for how to proceed, or not proceed, with the season. Schools at this point are encouraged to follow the current timeline.
“The AIA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee met to present its latest recommendations regarding the return to sports and activity,” the AIA said in a statement. “The AIA’s Executive Board has scheduled a special meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 2 to review this document and any changes that might be made prior to that meeting.
“As of right now the fall season staggered start will continue on its current schedule. All member schools are encouraged to follow the most recent version of sports modifications.”
There are several possible scenarios that could play out during the meeting Wednesday.
It could very well be simply to acknowledge the report and proceed with the current fall timeline. Or, it could result in a decision to further delay or cancel the season as a whole if new data was provided that show playing could be detrimental to the health of athletes, coaches and all others involved.
But is it possible the report gave the AIA clearance to proceed and the meeting could revolve around the school districts who said they wouldn’t be ready for the start of the season? Anything is possible at this point.
Tolleson Union High School District said it would not allow sports to continue until students were back in classrooms. Pima County, which over sees schools in Tucson, said the same. Phoenix Union was the first major Valley school district to postpone all athletics. Brophy Prep, which pulls in students from all over the Valley, isn’t moving into its second phase of its return-to-play plan until Sept. 8.
The timing of the meeting also raises questions.
Golf will already be nearly two weeks into its regular season by Wednesday. Swim and dive, cross country, badminton, fall soccer and volleyball will have already started official practices.
As of right now, the AIA said all sports who have or will begin official practices can proceed with the current timeline. Football, however, is tentatively scheduled to begin practices on Sept. 7.
“This is just about football,” one East Valley football coach said in a text after the meeting.
It is clear football poses the most risk for transmission of the virus. But singling out one sport is something the AIA has been against since surrounding states voted to move football and other contact sports to the spring.
Players, coaches, parents and media members were hoping for a conclusion to all the speculation after the AIA’s meeting with SMAC, the last one before the currently scheduled start of the season. Now, it looks like a conclusion may come Wednesday.
One aspect that has remained clear about the AIA throughout the duration of the pandemic is it has all athlete’s best interest at heart. Every board member has expressed their desire to have a season. It’s an unprecedented situation that has unfortunately resulted in a delay of action.
For now, the waiting game continues.