MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — SSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan updated the status of several issues surrounding the fall sports season in a wide-ranging interview on Citynet Statewide Sunday Sportsline.
Over the weekend, a significant change to the previous COVID protocols was announced by the Governor’s office. Teams that are in the orange category (no competitions allowed) on the protocols map can no longer hold sport-specific practices. They can only take part in conditioning drills.
“We haven’t had a lot of discussion about how that came about,” Dolan said. “Certainly there is a big difference in our minds as to what constitutes conditioning and practice. For our kids, practice is really important as you are doing sport-specific skills and training at that point. It is a big change for us and our schools.”
When the initial guidelines regarding attendance at competitions were announced, it was stated that those rules could be looked at again following week two of the season (which has just passed). Dolan says the SSAC will soon request to allow grandparents of athletes to attend games.
“Anytime we make recommendations, there are a number of people that have to sign off on them — Clayton Burch, the Governor, Clay Marsh and the DHHR.
“We are still gong to push for grandparents coming on. We think we can handle them in the capacity of the stadium. It is frustrating that we can’t get things under control to allow for people to come. But at some point, I would like to get to a point where it is a percentage. This is incredibly difficult and challenging for our schools to follow these guidelines and try to stay within a family household.”
Competitions in all sports can only be held for teams that are in the green and yellow categories.
Minimum playoff requirements
While some high school football teams may be able to get a complete ten-game regular season schedule in, others would be extremely fortunate at this point to play half a season. In a typical season, teams must play in a minimum of eight games to be eligible for the playoffs. That requirement was waived this season. A new minimum number of games to qualify for the postseason will be discussed by the SSAC this week.
“We have a special board meeting coming up on Wednesday. That is certainly one of our discussion points as to what is the minimum number in football.
“We said the minimum is not going to be eight this year. We didn’t want to put a number on it too soon because we weren’t sure how it was going to play out. We certainly think we will get a number and it will probably be somewhere in the four (game) range, I hope.”
Dolan acknowledged that the playoff field could be expanded, similar to what is taking place in Ohio.
“It is possible when we get down to it that it could be everyone is in at this point, depending on what the calendar said.”
At this time, Dolan did not think delaying the Super Six from its current date would be a good option.
“I think that makes it more challenging. We have had some good weather and some bad weather and I think moving it beyond that weekend (Dec. 4-5) makes it a challenge. Weather-wise, you certainly take a risk. We are hoping we can get in ten games for most people.”
Postseason nears in high school golf
The first postseason competitions of the fall begin two weeks from today (Sept. 28) with regional tournaments in high school golf. Individuals and teams can only qualify for the state tournament based on their performance in the regionals. If the current map and current policies remain the same, only schools and athletes in yellow and green counties would be able to attempt to qualify for the state tournament.
“It would be very difficult to allow one sport to compete in a county that is orange or red if we are still under the same guidance that you can not compete. If they are in orange or red, I don’t think they are going to be able to compete at this time.
“But as always, the Governor could change his guidance as to what we are doing. As we continue discussions, maybe it could be that during orange you could participate in state championships and tournaments.”
Postseasons begin in cross country and soccer begin in mid-October. Volleyball sectionals open in early-November.
Six-man or eight-man football?
In a non-COVID related item, Dolan addressed the possibility of sponsoring six-man or eight-man football. In the past two seasons, Notre Dame, Parkersburg Catholic and Paden City have canceled seasons due to low numbers. Hannan has delayed the start of their season for the same reason.
“We have approved on the JV level, six and eight-man football already. It is an opportunity for people to play in situations that they can’t come up with the numbers. We have looked at sponsoring six and eight but my goodness, the distance these teams would have to travel to get a schedule when we first looked at it was pretty large.
“Our hope is they can use they eight-man football to try to keep more kids involved. It is a lot easier to take the program down to eight and bring it back to eleven than it is to stop it and then bring it back.”
Following the guidelines
Finally, Dolan has heard the chorus of comments that high school athletes are unfairly singled out by state protocols while college sports and youth sports continue around West Virginia.
“Probably the most frustrating part for me is that our communities are trying. People above us at the college level are playing. People below us, youth sports, are playing. Travel is playing. The only people who are held out are the high school and middle schools kids that are actually in programs that have precautions and guidelines put in place.”