As you are aware, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all sports seasons for the 2020-21 school year were adjusted. The winter sports season is scheduled to begin with practices and try-outs allowed to begin on January 2, 2021, and contests permitted as early as January 14, 2021. Indeed, regular practices and try-outs for the winter season sports of skiing and flag football are permitted to begin this Saturday with competitions to follow as scheduled. These practices and competitions are to be in compliance with the guidance issued for these sports. However, per Emergency Directive 034 issued by Governor Sisolak on October 2, 2020, neither unmodified practice nor competition in the winter season sports of basketball or wrestling are permitted.
On December 22, 2020, this office on behalf of NIAA member schools and school districts filed a formal request with the Governor’s office, “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.” The document included a request that a response be provided by December 29.
This morning, in response to an inquiry from this office, I was informed by the Governor’s office that there is no decision at this time on our request. The response acknowledged the timing concerns of the NIAA and school districts but offered no indication as to when a decision might come. Any speculation as to when a decision might be issued would be exactly that, speculation.
Without action by the Governor to revise Emergency Directive 034 to allow high school basketball and/or wrestling to be conducted, neither unmodified practice nor competition in those sports is permitted. Section 7 of that Directive 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.” Schools and/or districts may opt to hold practices/conditioning in compliance with this restriction. Schools may hold try-outs beginning January 2, but must be in compliance with the restrictions in Section 7 of Directive 034 and the guidance issued by the NIAA for the specific sport. Such practices will count toward fulfillment of the requirement for the minimum number of practice days for a team prior to the first contest. The date, January 14, for the first contest allowed may be adjusted contingent on the date when unmodified practice and competition are permitted by Gubernatorial Directive if that occurs. That adjusted date will provide for at least five regular, unmodified practice days prior to a contest. The provisions of this memo apply only to winter season sports and do not include football.
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 prepare for the return to classes following the holidays and 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, once the conducting of certain sports is permitted, will there be enough time to formulate a season? 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.