WCAC reschedules all fall high school sports to January

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) is rescheduling its upcoming fall sports season to January 2021, becoming the latest interscholastic athletics association to be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioner Stephen Colantuoni said he met with athletic directors of member schools multiple times since March, coming up with different plans to resume athletics once schools reopen. Colantuoni said the goal was to come back with their full slate of fall sports, including football, soccer, cross-country field hockey, volleyball and tennis.

However, as time wore on and the continued spread of COVID-19 across the metropolitan region, the decision was made to hold off playing during the fall. The plan discussed during a meeting with the heads of schools last week, according to Colantuoni. 

“We held off for as long as we could,” Colantuoni said. “The biggest problem we have is we play in two different states and the District of Columbia, and we have seven jurisdictions, and every one of them is different.”

The WCAC is comprised of 13 private schools and must adhere to local guidelines regarding outside and indoor gatherings during the pandemic. As private institutions, they are not obligated to adhere to any public school system guidelines and can act independently in terms of having athletic competitions on school property.

The league will be monitoring restrictions placed on its schools across their jurisdictions and the feasibility of moving all fall athletics to early 2021. It will, however, consider playing a conference-only schedule, Colantuoni said.

“We made a commitment to our kids,” Colantuoni said. “That we are going to try as best we can to get a season in some time down the road. That’s the whole thing; our athletics are second to none.”

Colantuoni also stated the conference is focus on assuring all its student-athletes an opportunity to play this upcoming school year.

“Our spring sports, they got beat last (season), and they didn’t get to play at all,” Colantuoni said. “So that was really difficult for them, so I don’t want to do that two (seasons) in a row.”

The conference’s decision comes after multiple school districts and associations elect to reschedule or cancel their athletic programs.

Both District of Columbia State Athletic Association and the Virginia High School League made plans to move their fall sports to February 2021. However, Montgomery County Public School canceled their fall and winter seasons and Prince George’s County Public Schools’ athletics are postponed during virtual learning.

Moving the season to the spring can become problematic because college football prospects can enroll early and leave before the start of the season. Other possible concerns include the physical health of senior athletes who plan to enroll during the summer months will be entering workouts weeks after concluding a spring football season.

High school sports round-up: MCPS cancels fall, winter season while PGCPS puts athletics on hold

By Jose Umana and Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributors

BETHESDA — Two of the state’s largest school districts have announced the cancellation of fall sports for the 2020 season.

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Jack Smith said in a statement Tuesday that the school system will provide virtual-only learning for the first semester. The model also includes the cancellation of all fall and winter sports.

Ever since MCPS leaders have been exploring different methods to reopen schools in the fall, they have received additional guidance from Travis Gayles from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.

According to Smith, Gayles recommended that in-person instruction should not take place in school buildings. Instead, MCPS’ original plan of going virtual-only learning for at least until the end of the first semester on Jan. 29, 2021, or when state and local health officials approve their return would be the safer option.  

“This decision includes the cancellation of all fall and winter sports,” Smith said.

Smith said MCPS would reassess after the first quarter (Nov. 9) to determine if it can implement a phased blended model in the second semester, which begins Feb. 1, 2021. 

“We will continue to engage with our community as we continue to navigate this incredibly complex situation,” Smith said.

The sports that are affected include football, basketball, indoor track, wrestling, volleyball, cross country, soccer, field hockey and swimming. 

In a letter to the county’s sports community, Athletic Director Jeffrey Sullivan said that the department is “deeply saddened” by the cancelation, but health and safety is the No. 1 priority. 

“When the time comes for us to return to action, we will do what we do best–provide meaningful opportunities for our student-athletes to excel and bring our communities together,” Sullivan said. 

PGCPS puts athletics on hold during distant learning phase

Montgomery County’s decision comes as Prince George’s County Schools (PGCPS) announced its decision to put athletics on hold for the fall semester last Wednesday.

During her press conference about the school system’s reopening plans, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Monica Goldson said she had to address athletics after receiving “daily” questions on its status. When school starts on Aug. 31, PGCPS will open virtually with distance learning until the end of the second quarter on Jan. 29, 2021.

With the focus on ensuring the proper education and safety to students during the pandemic, Goldson said PGCPS could not operate athletics when the school year begins.

“At this time, we will not be able to implement interscholastic activities that will allow our students to remain safe,” Goldson said.

Instead, all student-athletes will be able to work together with their school’s athletic directors in virtual seminars. Other accommodations will be made for student-athletes who were preparing for recruiting and applying for college, according to a Twitter town hall PGCPS conducted.

Unlike MCPS, Goldson did not say when the hold on sports would end. In a statement, the Office of Interscholastic Athletics said as PGCPS enters the next phase of virtual learning, athletics will restart at “the lowest risk of participation” for students and staff, including at-home conditioning, a virtual re-introduction of athletics and additional online resources. 

“We will continue to keep you updated around the state as decisions are made surrounding athletic sports, but we will be offering opportunities for students in their clubs and organizations to continue virtually,” Goldson said. 

Both counties’ decisions come after Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) announced the state’s education system voted in favor of allowing each jurisdiction to control how to navigate its athletic programs. 

Baltimore, Harford, Howard and Anne Arundel counties will all go virtual learning in the fall. However, only Baltimore County has joined Montgomery and Prince George’s in postponing their fall and winter athletic season. 

MPSSAA released its Roadmap for Return of Interscholastic Athletics, which provides detailed guidelines for how counties should handle any cancelation of activities, modified and gradual resumption of sports and full resumption and administration of activities. 

The state’s athletic association will update and modify the fall practice schedule on July 21 and 28 and Aug. 4. Depending on the number of schools participating in a regular season, MPSSAA will determine the status of the fall state championships in October. 

DC-area high school associations delay start of fall sports season

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Three high school athletics associations in the D.C.-metropolitan region announced their decisions to delay the start of the fall sports season as schools prepare to administer classes during the coronavirus pandemic.

DCSAA plans to move football, fall sports to 2021

On late Thursday, the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) said it would start its athletic season with winter sports in December, moving fall sports to 2021. Cross-country, football, soccer and volleyball will instead begin to play in February 2021 and end their season on April 16, according to a news release.

“Given the current environment, it just is not feasible to begin practice Aug. 1 and competition later that month,” DCSAA Executive Director Clark Ray said. “The safety of student-athletes and coaches remains our top priority.”

Ray said all of 49 public, charter and independent (private and parochial) member high schools were consulted before the decision was announced.

Going forward, the DCSAA will follow a “Condensed Interscholastic Plan” with the winter sports starting their playing schedules first. Team practices begin on Dec. 14 with games reduced to a two-month competition between Jan. 4 to Feb. 28. Meanwhile, spring athletics starts from April 19 until June 13.

DCSAA will need the final approval from Mayor Muriel Bowser as well as the D.C. Department of Health to go forward with the new athletic schedule. Ray called the reduced plan “the best solution” based on the current data and science that assures students will have the opportunity to play during the 2020-21 school year.

“These are unprecedented times, and first and foremost, the DCSAA remains committed to the welfare of our student-athletes,” Chairperson Rosalyn Overstreet-Gonzalez said. “We are hopeful this model will keep all of our incredible student-athletes engaged and focused and also allow them to take the court or the field this school year and showcase their talents.”

Individual conferences that host private and independent schools within DCSAA can still have their member institutions participate in athletics in a different schedule.

The most recognized private school league in the D.C.-area, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC), has yet to announce its decision to hold a fall season.

MIAA, IAAM delay start until late September

In a joint statement, the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) announced the delayed start to their 2020 fall season, as practices will start on Sept. 1 and games will take place after Sept. 21.

The two governing bodies of private school sports, representing boys (MIAA) and girls (IAAM) of over 30 institutions, were set to start training camps in mid-August.

The two-week pushback will also include the waiver of blackout periods and out of season practice policies until further notice.

While the start dates are in September, the board of governors of both leagues will meet in August to determine if the delay needs to be extended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Once an official start date is confirmed, a newly revised schedule for fall athletics will be released, the statement said.

“Participation in healthy athletic practices provides our student-athletes opportunities to compete, build character, acquire, and improve skills, demonstrate leadership, and have fun,” the statement said. “Both leagues hope to honor this commitment and, at the same time, keep athletes and their coaches as healthy as possible.”

Public schools in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have announced their intentions to start their school years virtually but not if fall athletics will remain as scheduled.

In early June, the Maryland State Board of Education passed a resolution that would allow area public school systems the flexibility to schedule their interscholastic athletics based on “local conditions” created by COVID-19.