Now that the Secondary School Activities Commission has canceled spring sports, along with what was left of basketball season, the focus becomes whether or not West Virginia high school athletics can return in time for fall sports, with football being the prime concern.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, everything has been wiped off the docket going into June, with the next items up being the SSAC’s three-week summer practice period and the North-South weekend (June 12-13), featuring all-star basketball and football games.
The three-week practice period is scheduled for June 8-27, but the dates are flexible and can be moved at the discretion of individual counties. The only week blocked off is Fourth of July week (June 29-July 4). Counties can split the weeks between June and July, or run them consecutively, with July 13-Aug. 1 the latest possible start.
Football season, for now, is supposed to begin Aug. 3 with the opening of preseason practice, and the first weekend of regular-season games Aug. 27-29.
There has been speculation that the SSAC might delay the start of football season as the country continues to recover from COVID-19 and adhere to social distancing guidelines. Bernie Dolan, executive director of the SSAC, said his organization realizes the importance of a full football season, and has discussed the possibility of making changes, but it’s too soon to reveal any specifics.
“I think we’ve always had one eye on the fall,’’ Dolan said, “because you knew this [virus] was not somewhat like the flu. It was never really going to go away and might spring back up in the fall. We’ve been thinking about it, but we haven’t laid down any definite plans because the way this thing is going, you can’t plan a day ahead of time much less three months.
“We look at it as a lifeline for schools for their athletic programs. Football and basketball certainly fund a large proportion of all athletics, so if they have to curtail football for some reason, it’s hard to fund the other sports. And another thing, if they wanted to hold fundraisers, most of those all involve bringing a lot of people together.’’
Dolan has kept an eye on West Virginia’s recovery from the coronavirus, which has gone better than neighboring states, and hopes athletics can eventually resume as our state makes incremental gains.
“In general, West Virginia has been trending well,’’ Dolan said. “The first sign will be getting operations underway [elective surgeries could soon resume]. If that goes well, we can see it expanding into something else. What else can we open up? Eventually, every step fills in, as they’re staggering starting a lot of things.
“I think it will go quickly one way or grind to a halt because it’s too fast. You can do a lot of these things without a large number of people, so I think if it goes well, then you can have maybe 20 people at a site getting together.’’
Bob Mullett, director of the Friday Night Rivals North-South Football Classic, said on Tuesday that his group is hopeful its game can be played June 13 at South Charleston High School, with another important factor being whether pregame training camp can be held June 7-12 at West Virginia State’s campus in Institute.
“I hope they let us play the game at South Charleston and do our thing at State,’’ Mullett said. “So far, everybody I’ve talked to said yes. I do have to talk to both of those places next week.
“The good news is it could be one of the first things to open up because we don’t go to camp until June 7. We’d still love to have it, a lot of kids still want to play, they want to do something. The kids and coaches and parents are all looking forward to it.’’
The SSAC doesn’t govern the North-South game, which is sponsored by WCHS-TV 8 Fox 11 and the West Virginia Athletic Coaches Association. Dolan, however, was pleased to hear their plans are progressing.
“I hope they do play it,’’ Dolan said. “If they do, then things in West Virginia are looking up.’’
The North-South Basketball Classic, sponsored by the West Virginia Athletic Directors Association, is scheduled for Friday, June 12 at the South Charleston Community Center.
The basketball game recently revealed its coaches, with Josh Daniel (South Charleston) and Ronnie Olson (Shady Spring) leading the South, and Ryan Lambert (Pendleton County) and Chris Freeman (North Marion) coaching the North.