High school sports in Oregon will be delayed even longer than previously planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) executive board on Monday, Dec. 7, voted to revise the 2020-21 sports calendar.
Under the previous schedule, traditional winter sports were slated to start Dec. 28.
But two winter sports — basketball and wrestling — are full-contact sports that aren’t allowed now under Oregon Health Authority restrictions designed to slow the recent surge on virus cases.
“Basketball and wrestling currently are still prohibited by the state,” Peter Weber, OSAA executive director, said during a virtual meeting Monday morning. “We need to make some changes.”
One of those changes is to move the season for winter sports, which includes swimming as well as basketball and wrestling, to the spring.
Under the new plan, the high school sports season will start with traditional fall sports — football, volleyball, soccer and cross-country — which are slated to start practicing on Feb. 22, with games starting March 1.
Traditional fall sports would be followed by traditional spring sports, from April 5 through May 24, and the year would conclude with traditional winter sports from May 10 to June 27.
The seasons will be shorter than they were under the previous plan, which was slated to see the season start on Dec. 28 and called for 10-week seasons.
Under the new plan, each of the three seasons would be six weeks in length, and would have a one-week culminating week to conclude the season.
The shorter seasons don't overlap as much — only one week with both fall and spring sports, and two weeks with spring and winter sports — which allows students to play three sports rather than having to choose one sport over another.
The changes were made due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in Oregon that led to further restrictions being put in place by Gov. Kate Brown. Under the current regulations, 25 of Oregon’s 36 counties are classified as “extreme-risk” and have the highest level of restrictions.
Peter Weber, OSAA executive director, explained that because of that, only about 42 of the entity’s member schools are in a location lower than extreme-risk.
“The OSAA and member schools are bound to follow the guidance for the state. They are not suggestions. they are requirements,” Weber said.
Buell Gonzales Jr., Baker School District athletic director, said he sees the benefit of pushing back the start to February.
“It’s good, OSAA had to do something because we weren’t going to start season two (on) December 28, that was a sure thing,” Gonzales said. “February is a good time.”
He was also pleased that OSAA decided to shorten the seasons.
"I was glad to hear that it's not overlapping any sports because I know at the 4A level we share a lot of athletes," Gonzales said.
Jack Folliard, executive director of the Oregon Officials Association, also argued against an overlapping schedule, as that would force many referees to decide between sports.
The new schedule is not ideal, at least in terms of weather.
With the traditional fall sports starting in February, soccer and football players, along with cross-country runners, could deal with wintry weather.
The average high and low temperatures in Baker City on Feb. 22, the first day of practice for traditional fall sports, are 43 and 24. The record low temperature for that date is 10 below zero.
"There's usually quite a bit of snow here in the middle of February so that will be interesting," Gonzales said.
Nonetheless, he's happy to see progress on the schedule.
"This is our most recent positive thing that we've had so it's good to have those," he said.
More information on the new schedule is available at www.osaa.org.