High school football will not be played this fall in Virginia.
Football will be either played in the winter or spring or not at all, based on which of three plans the Virginia High School League's executive committee approves July 27 for the 2020-21 high school sports season. The July 27th meeting convenes at 9 a.m.
VHSL executive director Billy Haun presented the three models Wednesday morning during an executive committee meeting. Haun said the VHSL based its models on the NCAA's example about classifying sports as lower, moderate and high risk in response to the coronavirus.
The executive committee, primarily comprised of school superintendents, principals and athletic directors, also announced the delay of the start of the fall sports season until its decision is made July 27. Football practice had been scheduled to start July 30.
The executive committee also voted to suspend the July-August 2020 dead period that will allow out-of-season practices to continue.
“It’s important to remember that in all these models playing sports in the high risk category depends on being out of the current Phase III guidelines. All our efforts will continue towards advocating for the opening of sports and activities in a safe and reasonable way that will protect athletes, activity participants, coaches, officials, and the public,” Haun said in a statement. “The VHSL will continue making judgments based on the best available information and directives provided by the Governor, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).”
The three proposed models for the 2020-21 high school sports season are:
Leave sports in their current seasons, but only golf and cross country would be allowed to start in the fall because they fall into the lower to moderate contact category.
As high-risk sports, field hockey, football, volleyball and cheerleading would not play.
Switch the fall and spring seasons, which means the following low and moderate sports would be allowed to compete in the fall: track and field, tennis, soccer, baseball and softball. Fall sports would be scheduled for the spring.
The high risk-sports, boys and girls lacrosse, would not be allowed to play.
All sports would remain in the season in which they are currently aligned, but a condensed interscholastic schedule would be adopted as follows:
Season 1 (Winter sports) would run Dec. 14-Feb. 20. The first contest would be Dec. 28.
Season 2 (Fall sports) would run Feb. 15-May 1 with the first contest starting March 1.
Season 3 (Spring sports) would run April 12-June 26 with the first contest starting April 26.
With so much uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic, Model 3 provides schools the most flexibility to allow all sports the opportunity to compete and likely will draw the most support.
“Model 3 gives us the most flexibility,” Jamestown High School principal Howard Townsend IV said. “It keeps more doors open … Model 3 makes more sense to me.”
"Personally I like option 3. With all the uncertainty of things, I like this model because it gives all kids no matter the season the hope that we can still play," said Manassas Park activities director Dan Forgas, who is also a member of the executive committee. "Getting back to playing is the big picture hope we all have. At this point in time, I want us to play football and all sports, even if they look different this year. With that said, we have to also stay focused on the health and safety of our students and coaches."
If the executive committee votes for model 3, then Haun estimated that only 60 percent of the schedule would be played in this abbreviated format.
Haun explained the pros and cons for each model, but said Model 3 makes the most sense.
“We may be better off in January than now,” Haun said. “We may not be better off. We may put this off and have this condensed schedule and even in the spring we may not be able to play [high-risk] athletics. But [Model 3] does give us the possibility it could change for the better.”
Haun recommended making a decision on one of the three models Aug. 3, but the executive committee voted Wednesday to move that date up to July 27.
With no football for the fall, coaches will now turn their attention to preparing for a later start.
"I believe everyone is trying to make the best decision possible," said Patriot head football coach Sean Finnerty. "It's an extremely tough decision. [We] have to focus now on making sure our boys get a season whether it's this winter or spring. Football means more than just a sport to our boys. It's a tool that is used for many things whether it is to get to college or learning life lessons."