Virginia High School League athletics are about to enter a new world.
This one has no road map.
The VHSL Executive Committee will meet at 9 a.m. Monday by video conference when it is expected to determine the fate of the 2020-21 fall sports season.
The VHSL’s legislative body — composed primarily of public school superintendents, principals and athletic directors from across the state — is expected to adopt a revamped athletics calendar that would compress its fall, winter and spring seasons into a calendar running from Dec. 28 to June 26.
VHSL executive director Billy Haun presented three models for rescheduling sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic to the committee when it last convened July 15.
None included a possibility of a fall football season:
Model 1 — Leave all sports in their normal seasons as originally scheduled with golf and cross country the only sports allowed to compete:
Model 2 — Switch fall and spring sports except lacrosse and soccer, which are deemed “high risk.”
Model 3 — Delay all VHSL sports but allow each sport to play a condensed season between Dec. 28 and June 26.
While it is possible a committee member could propose a different model, widespread support was expressed by voters for Model 3, which would have the following condensed schedule:
Season 1 (basketball, wrestling, swimming, indoor track and field) — Dec. 14-Feb. 20 with first contest date Dec. 28.
Season 2 (football, volleyball, golf, cross country, field hockey, competitive cheer) — Feb. 15-May 1 with first contest date March 1.
Season 3 (baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, tennis, outdoor track and field) — April 12-June 26 with first contest date April 26.
Haun also offered the possibility of a one-week postseason with state tournaments in team sports other than football under Model 3.
He dismissed the possibility postseason state championship football games, instead promoting a “bowl game” for all schools or “regional or sectional” championships.
Lord Botetourt athletic director Chuck Pound expects Model 3 to get the go-ahead.
“I know at our region [3D] meeting our region voted for Model 3,” Pound said Sunday. “The VHSL rep there said a couple of other regions met and they went with Model 3.”
A compressed season would allow each sport to play approximately 60 percent of its normal schedule — 14 basketball games instead of 22, 12 baseball and softball games instead of 20, 10 soccer games instead of 16, etc.
How many district games would each district play?
Would there be room for nondistrict rivalry games and invitational tournaments or one-day events?
With many school systems only recently figuring out instruction schedules, those questions and many more will be answered later.
“The [Blue Ridge] district will have to get together and decide if we’re going to keep our district schedule,” Pound said.
“We may just play one [district game against each opponent], and if we wanted to play Northside [again] that would be nondistrict. We’re waiting to see what happens.”
Pound and other athletic directors must confront the impact of lost revenue from having three home football games instead of five if the condensed format is adopted.
The revenue loss would be more drastic if social distancing requirements because of the coronavirus leave stadiums with limited capacity.
“You hope by then that things are getting more back to normal, but I’m still betting we’re not going to have 100% capacity,” the Botetourt AD said.
“The scary thing is, [safety] indoors is probably worse and that’s what we’re starting with at the first of the year.”
The VHSL and its individual schools also must decide how to proceed with sports if an athlete, coach, official or any participant in an event tests positive for COVID-19.
The Virginia Department of Health reported 1,245 positive tests Saturday.
“It’s definitely going to happen,” Pound said. “At the very minimum, everybody on the court gets tested and you have to wait until the tests come back before you decide what you’re going to do.”
Transporting athletes to and from games and practices is another problem that must be addressed, particularly with almost every school system in Virginia allowing distance learning on many days for its students and capacity on buses reduced to 50% or less.
“It’s going to hurt our younger kids,” Floyd County football coach Winfred Beale said. “We always had the activity buses but none of that’s available. Parents would have to bring them to workouts and pick them up.”
Beale, whose next football season will be the 39th as Floyd’s head football coach, recently learned the Buffaloes’ field will be named in his honor.
He never thought he might be coaching football games in the spring but he spoke for many of his colleagues about the possibility
“I just hope we get that,” he said.