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Andrew Tucker: WIAA has bungled the return of fall sports
Commentary

Andrew Tucker: WIAA has bungled the return of fall sports

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As someone who spends a lot of free time playing cards, I often fall back on the saying, “You have to play the hand you’re dealt,” when I am responding to an adverse situation.

The coronavirus has been a crummy hand for everyone across the world, with some reacting more nimbly than others.

If you ask me, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has played its hand poorly when it comes to getting the fall sports season rolling.

To be clear, I do not have an issue with the organization’s July 23 decision to delay the start of certain “high-risk” sports.

Splitting the seven fall sports into two groups — “high-risk” and “low-risk” — is a nuanced approach rather than applying the same broad rules to very different sports, and I applaud them for that. I am also glad that the WIAA is not prematurely cancelling the season outright and is at least trying to provide some sort of season for athletes across the state.

What I have a problem with the most is the way WIAA officials came to their decision.

All summer, the WIAA kicked the can down the road before holding a meeting at the 11th hour, deciding the fate of fall sports just 12 days before football practice was set to begin.

While I am sure discussions were going on behind closed doors, the organization did not ever publicly acknowledge any contingency plans it was mulling over. This left coaches, players and fans alike in the dark about where things stood with regards to the sports that people care so much about.

Additionally, the WIAA plan, as it currently stands, is far too bare-bones.

After having all summer to come up with multiple contingency plans for whatever the climate might be in early August, all the WIAA could offer was to change the starting dates on a calendar.

There is no announced plan in place for when the season will end, if there will be any sort of state championships, or what teams should do if they cannot play sports this fall because of local ordinances. There isn’t even a set of strict guidelines for what level of person-to-person contact is acceptable at a practice or game — just a loose set of guidelines proposed in mid-June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As a result, after months of waiting to hear the fate of the fall season, coaches and athletic directors across the state are left waiting still for further guidance.

I understand that, given the fast-changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic, preliminary discussions the WIAA had in late May likely would have changed three or four times before the firmer plans they made now. Maybe constant changes would have been more confusing than staying silent.

But I think if the WIAA had been a bit more transparent in its plan of attack from the get-go, it would be easier to stomach changes on such short notice.

When it comes to the fall sports discussion, the WIAA held their cards a little too close to the chest.

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