AIA recommends pushing high school football start to September

Gila Herald File Photo: Dylan Dorrell (30) gets ready to receive a handoff against Sabino in last year’s playoff game. The AIA has recommended pushing the start of this year’s football season into September.

By Seth Polansky/AZPreps365

PHOENIX – The Executive Board of the Arizona Interscholastic Association called a special meeting Wednesday via Zoom to discuss the information shared in previous AIA committee meetings in accordance with Governor Doug Ducey’s executive action to delay the start of in-person schooling.

Please note that all subjects below are based off the timeline that schools will reopen to students on Aug. 17 at this time. Any and all plans can change if the timeline shifts.

Start/End of Fall Sports Seasons

Preliminary plans are in place to finish all fall sports seasons on time and in full with modifications. Some of these ideas, among others, will be taken to the leadership of each conference as decisions would need to be made for who would qualify for the postseason and how many schools per sport.

These are only preliminary outlines and nothing is finalized yet.

  • Football – For 2A-6A, an 8-10 game schedule can be achieved by starting competition on the week of Sept. 7. The current playoff structure may have to be adjusted after input from the membership. 1A football is currently looking at modifications, if necessary.
  • The remainder of the fall sports can be adjusted slightly to possibly ensure complete regular seasons.
  • It is possible that regular-season invitationals and tournaments may be limited or canceled due to venue allowances and other restrictions.
  • Below are the estimated starting dates for competition:
    • Golf – Aug. 24
    • Badminton – Aug. 31
    • All other fall sports – week of Sept. 7

Guidelines for Return

Executive Director David Hines met with the Arizona Department of Health Services recently to address return to school and return to play protocols. The health department is in favor of the AIA’s guidelines for return to sport and activity as recommended by the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. It is considered a document closely aligned with the health department’s own guidelines. The AIA and the Executive Board continue to promote these guidelines for schools to follow in preparation for the fall.

Virtual Schooling

Even though many school districts have elected to begin their school year virtually prior to the governor’s target date of in-person reopening of Aug. 17, it is that date which has been identified as the start of the AIA fall season. Until then, all schools must operate under summer rules as per the AIA handbook.

Individual School Cancellation of Sports/Fall Season

If a school determines that it cannot operate a fall sports season due to the pandemic, the AIA will respect that decision. Fees and penalties are waived for cancellations that are due directly to the pandemic. The AIA will also help the schools losing contests find new ones to fill out schedules.

Hardship Appeals

The deadline to submit for hardships has been pushed back two weeks, and the subsequent hardship appeals meetings have been pushed back two weeks. Athletic directors at each member school will have deadlines for hardship submissions and meetings. This will allow schools more time to better identify and process transfer students.

CPR/First Aid Training

In its one action item, the Executive Board approved an exception to the rule for head coaches who had their CPR/first aid certifications expire after the 2019-20 school year. The allowance will be for the coach to continue operating under the previous year’s guidelines if he or she is unable to renew at this time. New head coaches that did not have prior certification must find a source to be certified for the upcoming year.

School Surveys

Initially, member school principals were to be surveyed at the beginning of the first and third weeks of July to get a sense of what their reopening plans entailed. Since this was announced before Governor Ducey’s executive action, the two surveys will now become one survey that will go out to all member school principals on Aug. 4 and due back to the association by the 7th. The results will be shared with the Crisis Management Committee before it goes before the Executive Board on Aug. 17 at its regularly scheduled meeting.

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