High school sports will return this fall in Oregon — just a little later than usual. At least that is the plan as of Wednesday.
Prep football seasons remain on hold in Oregon, and other fall sports contests have been delayed until late September, as state athletic officials have opted to wait and weigh their options after three days of online meetings this week.
The Oregon School Activities Association executive board held Zoom meetings Monday through Wednesday to determine how upcoming high school sports seasons would proceed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan moving forward: delay the volleyball, soccer, and cross-country contests until Sept. 23 (previously Aug. 27) while still allowing for teams to hold practice on the original starting date of Aug. 17. The executive board will reconvene the week of Aug. 3 to assess the situation further.
“By pushing that contest date back, we buy ourselves a little more time to have discussions,” said Peter Weber, the executive director of the OSAA. “It also allows schools to make decisions on how they will do school in the fall. With schools, whatever happens, it is going to be new for kids with a lot of changes. By pushing the contest date back, we allow schools to focus on that, which is their real priority.”
The news comes after neighboring states laid out their plans for high school sports returning. However, all three states on the West Coast have different plans for their upcoming fall seasons.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association reshuffled its seasons, moving traditional fall sports (soccer, volleyball and football) to early spring, while the California Interscholastic Federation is holding off until at least December before high school sports return.
Oregon is still taking a wait-and-see approach — for now.
“It is not as dramatic as Washington made, or even California,” said Summit High School athletic director Mike Carpenter. “The good news is that we are trying to keep fall sports in the fall, winter sports in the winter and spring sports in the spring.”
The OSAA plan also came out the same day as Gov. Kate Brown’s press conference, in which a central topic was the mandate of wearing masks indoors even while exercising. But the news from the press conference had little impact on the state’s high school sports governing body’s decision.
“We are waiting on further guidance from the state on school sports and what that looks like,” Weber said. “Providing a little more time gives us a little more flexibility to make those decisions when things are constantly changing. We want to be in the best position to do what is best to get kids back playing.”
Football, the one fall sport in the high-infection risk category, has the most obstacles to returning this fall. The OSAA Football Contingency Group says that any football restrictions must be lifted by Sept. 28 in order to have a modified regular season in the fall that would include some type of restructured postseason.
“I don’t think anyone wants to cancel football,” said Bend High football coach Matt Craven. “I don’t see people running around trying to offer kids less opportunities. Everyone is trying to do it in a safe way and salvage as much normalcy for these kids as they can. It is going to take some time to get things into a position where we can safely reinstate football.”
The OSAA is still considering a California or Washington model. But even that will raise issues, especially among smaller schools, if fall sports get moved to winter or spring.
“If you had multiple sports going on that are different from what traditionally has happened, will a small school be able to have a football and a baseball team? Likely not,” Weber said. “Those are the discussions we will continue to have.”