Region 1D endorses plan to start VHSL sports in December

J.I. Burton’s Esau Teasley attempts to elude Patrick Henry defenders in last year’s Region 1D championship game.

With little hope of playing any high school sports in the fall in Virginia, the VHSL Region 1D committee voted Monday to endorse a plan that calls for holding off the start of prep sports until December.

“Nobody is expecting us to play (in the fall),” Travis Gray, Holston athletic director and the region’s representative on the VHSL Executive Committee, said at the electronic regional meeting.

Most medical experts are expecting to see an increased or level number of COVID-19 cases as the fall of the year hits, and they do not expect to see Virginia move past its current Phase 3 status during the season, which calls for social distancing among other precautions.

Gray said as long as Virginia is in Phase 3, no “high-risk” sports, such as football and volleyball, would be allowed to be played in the fall.

Considering the projections for the upcoming months, the committee voted to support the third model presented to the VHSL Executive Committee earlier this month.

THE PLAN

Under Model 3, teams would play about 60% of what would be considered a normal regular-season schedule.

All three seasons would be moved from their normal status, with fall season sports seeing the biggest shuffle and a February start.

Under the plan, the seasons would look like this:

Winter season sports — boys and girls basketball, wrestling, indoor track, swimming and dive and gymnastics — would begin on Dec. 14 and would run through Feb. 20 with the first contest date set for Dec. 28.

The fall season sports — football, volleyball, cross country, golf, field hockey and cheer — would follow with a season that would run from the first practice date of Feb. 15 and ending May 1. The first contest date for the season would be March 1.

The spring sports season — which includes baseball, softball, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls tennis, track and field and lacrosse — would begin April 12 and conclude on June 26. First contest dates for spring under the model would be April 26.

THE OTHER MODELS

Two other models are on the table when the VHSL’s governing committee meets on July 27, but neither of the other plans gained much momentum when they were presented to the committee from Dr. Billy Haun, the league’s executive director, on July 15.

Under the VHSL’s Model 1 plan, sports would remain as they have been with the current fall, winter and spring sports seasons. The catch is there would be no football, volleyball, field hockey nor competitive cheer in the fall because of their high-risk classification and the state remaining in Phase 3.

Only cross country and golf would be allowed in the fall in the first model.

Model 2 calls for swapping the spring and fall seasons.

Most spring sports are not classified as high risk and could be played in the fall under current guidelines. But Gray said if the status changes and things get worse in the fall, as many anticipate, then spring sports would have to stop, and that would mean the elimination of the spring sports season for the second year in a row.

Rural Retreat athletic director James Hughes asked about going forward with the model calling for swapping spring and fall seasons and then going to Model 3 if things with the pandemic get worse in the fall and the spring season sports have to stop.

“If we go with Model 2, why can’t we have Model 3 in our back pocket?” Hughes asked. “That would give everyone a full season, including the postseason. And if we get shut down that’s fine. We don’t go forward (and revert to Model 3).”

Gray said Model 2 did not get many positive comments at the Executive Committee meeting and most committee members want to begin scheduling and making a plan for moving forward.

“Too many people there want to go ahead and a get a plan,” Gray said.

ANOTHER QUESTION

Another question discussed at the Region 1D meeting centered around sports returning if the pandemic conditions in the state do not improve by the time the winter sports season is scheduled to begin in December.

Gray said that would be something the Executive Committee would have to discuss before Dec. 14 and the start of winter sports.

During the July 15 Executive Committee meeting, Haun said that any plan approved would have to be considered a fluid plan and could change depending on developments with the pandemic.