High School Winter Sports Delayed Amid COVID-19 Surge

By Austin Fast
Published: Friday, November 20, 2020 - 3:03pm

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The Arizona Interscholastic Association has approved new restrictions on high school sports like basketball, soccer and wrestling as coronavirus cases climb across the state. 

The board voted Thursday that winter sports seasons will be allowed to start Jan. 5 and must end by Feb. 19. Teams must practice for at least 14 days before starting competition. The maximum number of games for basketball and soccer will remain at 20. But the board approved two extra wrestling matches, increasing the maximum allowed from 12 to 14.

The board also said no fans will be allowed until further notice and no invites, regional tournaments or out-of-state competition will be allowed. These are all in addition to the pages of winter sport modifications the AIA has already published to minimize coronavirus transmission at sporting events and practices.

The spring season has also been slightly changed, with official practices pushed to Feb. 15, a week later than originally planned.

AIA spokesman Seth Polansky explained they wanted to give coaches and schools more time to put safeguards in place.

"(COVID-19) has kind of spilled over our metrics. And there’s very, very few places in the state that meet our metrics to start the winter season," Polansky said. “We’re not going to call it a bubble, but we’re significantly limiting the hours student-athletes possibility of getting together with other student-athletes, maybe from other states in tournaments or invitationals that might be at a national level.”

Executive Director David Hines originally made the recommendation Monday after meeting with health officials, but it was approved Thursday.

“The executive board felt it was necessary to fight for these students to have a chance. They see the need in the schools they are representing,” Hines said.

Coronavirus benchmarks call for less than 100 cases per 100,000 residents, two weeks under 7% positivity and two weeks under 10% hospitalizations. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 4,471 new cases Friday and 43 additional deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 291,696 cases and 6,427 deaths. It represented the second consecutive day of cases topping 4,000 across Arizona.

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