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AIA gives update on return to high school sports

Plans are in place for a fall athletic season in Arizona. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

Plans are in place for a fall athletic season in Arizona. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — The debate as to whether a fall sports season would actually take place within the ranks of Arizona high schools due to the coronavirus pandemic was put to rest Aug. 5.

At least for now.

In a special meeting, the Arizona Interscholastic Association executive board approved a fall 2020 interscholastic athletics calendar that pushes the start date for some fall sports as far back as Sept. 7.

“The health and safety of our student participants, coaches, officials and essential personnel, including volunteers, is the primary concern for the return of interscholastic athletics and activities,” AIA Executive Director David Hines said. “We are very grateful to those who share our commitment of a return to these highly beneficial educational activities and athletics.”

Executive Board President Toni Corona said they “owe it” to the high school sports programs to provide a direction.

“It may be challenging to get everything going for all the schools at one time but with good communication, we can provide the best possible experience for our students in this unprecedented time,” Corona said in a statement. “This board and the AIA staff will continue to provide information and guidelines as we proceed.”

Normally, the first Monday in August (or second depending on the year) sees fall sports teams hold their first practices in preparation for the upcoming season, but under the AIA’s new plan to help student-athletes, coaches and fans socially distance themselves from infection of COVID-19, golf can begin practices Aug. 17 while cross-country, swimming, badminton, soccer and volleyball start Aug. 31.

As for football, the first practice is scheduled for Sept. 7 with a Week 1 kickoff date tentative for Sept. 30. Since that’s a Wednesday, most schools will likely opt to begin Friday, Oct. 2. That’s a five-to six-week delay compared to a normal Arizona high school football season Week 1 schedule.

The 4A, 5A and 6A conferences will likely play an eight-game season with playoffs beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving. And with only eight teams making the playoffs, championship weekend is scheduled for Dec. 11-12.

“That’s the only unfortunate part. That only eight teams will get into the playoffs in 4A. It would kind of be a bummer if you win a region and don’t get in the playoffs,” Prescott head coach Cody Collett told the Courier on Wednesday. “Any football is better than nothing, however.”

For the 1A, 2A and 3A conferences, leadership within their ranks are still discussing possibilities for length of regular seasons and when to hold state championships.

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