STEVENS POINT, Wis. – The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Control suspended tournament travel reimbursements to schools and approved a limited number of fall sport coaches’ recommendations at its January meeting today.
Suspension of the travel reimbursements applies to the 2021 winter, alternate fall and spring culminating events in response to the drastic reduction of revenue generated with limited spectator attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following a review of the fall sports recommendations by the Sports Advisory Committee and the Advisory Council, the Board assessed and acted on seven proposals advanced by the fall coaches’ and officials’ advisory committees with four receiving approval.
Two recommendations for change in the football regulations received Board support. The first adds language to the Playoff Procedures to count forfeits as victories for playoff qualifying but not for seeding. Only games actually played will be considered for computer seeding purposes with the results of the games counting for both teams. The second approved recommendation mandates a playoff ineligibility period until the next two-year realignment cycle for any school football program changing sponsorship to-or-from an 11-player or 8-player program outside the designated realignment process cycle.
In soccer, the Board ratified a recommendation to strike language from the Tournament Procedures that requires a vote by coaches to retain the half bracket or split into two regional groupings. As a result, beginning in 2021-22, Sectional 1 in each division will be split into two regional groups, geographically, prior to seeding for both boys and girls soccer tournaments. Also approved, dependent upon NFHS adoption, is the removal of the experimental designation of the 45-minute halves in the Season Regulations. If not approved by the NFHS, halves will return to 40 minutes in 2021-22.
Addressing the pending winter Tournament Series, the Board approved hosting and attendance policies, as well as requiring appropriately worn masks by participants and spectators, except for competing gymnasts while performing routines. For regionals and sectionals involving two teams – including basketball and hockey – host schools are to provide a minimum of four spectators per travel party as defined in the Tournament Regulations. Schools able to accommodate only two spectators per travel party member at the regional level must contact the WIAA office.
For regionals and sectionals involving multiple teams – including wrestling, gymnastics and swimming & diving – host schools may provide a minimum of two spectators per participant where allowed by the local health department.
The Board also approved fast-tracked, non-football conference realignment requests by New Richmond to move from the Middle Border Conference to the Big Rivers Conference and by White Lake to transition from the Northern Lakes Conference to the North Division of the Central Wisconsin Conference, effective in 2021-22.
For statewide uniformity and consistency during the tournaments, the Board reaffirmed the policy requiring a 14-day quarantine period for individuals having close contact with positive COVID-19 cases. Other items receiving Board action were procedural approvals of the general fund, deferred liability fund and general financial statements, as well as the approval of the adjusted 2019-20 audit.
Following a report of Tuesday’s Advisory Council meeting, the Board initiated a plan to conduct a retreat in the coming weeks to consider and discuss exercising its disaster authority as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Article III, Section 4 of the WIAA Constitution authorizes the Board to “levy proportionate fees on member schools in the event of a membership emergency, sufficient to meet the identified emergency and to sustain the operations and services of the Association.” Without the revenue generated by mass attendance at Tournament Series events since last March, while continuing to offer culminating events and other membership services during that period, the Association has been conducting membership business on operational reserves.
The Executive Staff shared with the Board the decision to suspend the state Scholar-Athlete Awards selections with recognition limited to local school recipients for 2020-21. The disruption of traditional sports seasons, tournaments and conference programming during the pandemic significantly impacts the integrity of uniformly and objectively applying the award selection criteria.
Other topics of discussion included a review of pending legal matters regarding virtual school, transfer eligibility and officials’ assault legislation; Constitutional amendments; alternate fall season; NFHS-related items; possible delaying of the Annual Meeting scheduled in April; Spirit of Sport Award nominations, and Advisory Council and Board of Control elections.
The Board received liaison reports from John Ashley of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, Nathan DeLany of the Wisconsin Athletic Directors Association and Andy Engle of the Hamilton Consulting Group.
The WIAA, as defined by its Constitution, is a voluntary, unincorporated, and nonprofit organization. The membership oversees interscholastic athletic programs for 515 senior high schools and 48 junior high/middle level schools in its membership.
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