On January 1, 2021, this office received a communication from the Governor’s office in response to our request of December 22, 2020, “that the provision of Emergency Directive 034 which currently prohibits the conducting of NIAA sanctioned high school basketball and wrestling be revised to allow either or both of those sports to be conducted under the provisions of the guidance issued by the NIAA for those specific sports.” That response indicated, “Upon review of the proposed plans and feedback from state and county public health officials, the Governor will not be revising the directive as requested at this time.” In summary, the communication reiterated, “as of now, the Governor will not be making any changes to Directive 034, and basketball and wrestling are still prohibited for unmodified practice and/or competition.”
On January 5, 2021, this office received additional information from the Governor’s office. That information indicated that the earliest a potential lifting of the prohibition on unmodified practice or competition for full/close-contact sports would be considered would be in conjunction with review of the current Statewide Pause. As you are aware, per Emergency Directive 034, full/close-contact sports include the NIAA sports of basketball, wrestling, and football. The current Statewide Pause is in effect until at least January 15 and could be extended based on the situation with the pandemic. While the prohibition on full/close-contact sports is not linked to the Statewide Pause, assurance was given that a review of the prohibition would be included among the many issues considered in reviewing the pandemic situation in conjunction with consideration of ending or continuing the Pause. It is noted that an end to or revision of mitigation efforts related to the Pause does not necessarily mean a lifting of the Directive 034 prohibitions on full/close-contact sports.
The winter season sports of skiing and flag football are permitted under Directive 034 to practice and hold competitions. Practices in these two sports were allowed to begin on January 2 under the provisions of Directive 034 and the guidance issued by the NIAA for those sports. The first contests in those sports are allowed as early as January 14. In order to participate in competition, a school must be holding in-person classes in some fashion. The season for skiing and flag football has not been adjusted beyond the initial adjustment that was announced on July 23 that the season would begin with practices allowed January 2 and conclude with the latest date for competition on February 20, 2021.
At this time, modified practices and conditioning in accordance with NIAA guidance and with the additional restrictions outlined in Emergency Directive 034 are permitted in the sports of basketball and wrestling. Section 7 of Directive 034 provides that these sports may take place on a “limited basis for athletic conditioning, drills, and practices in which dummy players, sleds, punching bags, and similar equipment are used, but athletes do not come into contact with other players.” Competition, scrimmages and unmodified practice are not allowed under the provisions of Emergency Directive 034 in the NIAA winter season sports of basketball and wrestling. Update 18 outlines how practices are to be counted toward fulfilling minimum requirements for practice prior to a first contest.
As noted previously, the lifting of the prohibition on basketball and wrestling will not be reviewed until considerations are entertained regarding the current Statewide Pause. We have been assured the issue will be reviewed in the context of the situation at that time. There will be no consideration regarding lifting of the prohibition on basketball and/or wrestling prior to that review. The current Statewide Pause continues through January 15 and could be extended.
That being the case, if the sports of basketball and/or wrestling are allowed to be conducted sometime after January 15, adjustments in the schedules for basketball and wrestling will be needed as the season is necessarily shortened for those sports.
As noted in Update 18, issued December 30, 2020, this office continues to prepare for seasons in basketball and/or wrestling in case a Directive is issued by the Governor allowing one or both of those sports to be conducted, however likely or unlikely that may be. The Board of Control of the NIAA took action in June that the NIAA would conduct as many sports as possible with as many schools as can and are willing to participate. Some schools and districts have already indicated they will not participate in any of the winter season sports regardless of whether those sports are allowed to be conducted. As schools and districts return to classes following the holidays with the challenges of conducting winter season sports in the midst of the pandemic, school and district administrators and leaders find themselves in a difficult position. Given the unique circumstances of their particular schools and communities, as well as the demands of directives promulgated in response to the pandemic, these administrators and leaders are tasked with making a determination as to whether the schools they supervise will even be able to participate if and when competition is allowed. Additionally, if and when conducting of certain sports is permitted, decisions on whether a viable season can be conducted will be needed. These decisions will be made with input from member schools. It is noted that participation in specific NIAA sports seasons is optional for schools and/or districts. The NIAA will continue to prepare for and carry out seasons for as many schools as wish to participate in as many NIAA sports as are permitted to be conducted during the 2020-21 adjusted sports seasons.