The Big Eight Conference became the first in the state to cancel all conference competitions for the 2020 fall sports season.

In a virtual meeting Tuesday with all the Big Eight athletic directors, a motion passed 10-0 to not hold conference competitions and not crown any conference champions.

All Big Eight schools still have the option of scheduling nonconference games, meets or matches in all fall sports, as long as they follow the guidance of the WIAA and local public health officials. The WIAA Board of Directors is scheduled to meet Thursday morning to further discuss fall sports statewide.

“As with the past spring season and during the summer contact period, when school facilities are closed in each district, we will not hold in-person practices or workouts, or allow practice without a coach,” Big Eight Conference commissioner Jeremy Schlitz said in an email. “As each district allows, to put the physical and mental well-being of student-athletes at the forefront, we will offer sport-specific virtual coaching and workouts provided they do not require student-athletes and coaches to gather or encourage student-athletes to group together.”

Currently, the Madison, Middleton and Sun Prairie school districts have announced they will operate virtually with closed campuses for at least the first semester of the 2020-21 school year. Verona is expected to follow suit. There is a possibility Janesville could follow suit, though the district’s current plan is to allow parents and students to choose between in-person or virtual learning, or a hybrid combination of the two.

According to Janesville Craig athletic director Ben McCormick, the hope is that the WIAA moves the 2020 fall sports season to the spring of 2021, with the 2021 spring sports season moving to the summer. That plan, first brought to the table by a group from the southwest portion of the state, will be discussed by the WIAA on Thursday.

“I think we’d all agree that a fall sports season in the spring is better than no season at all,” McCormick said. “I think by the Big Eight taking the lead on cancelling fall sports within our conference, we’re putting some pressure on the WIAA to cancel all fall sports in the state and move them to the spring. All of us Big Eight athletic directors like the plan of moving fall sports to spring.”

Craig and Janesville Parker are now in the Badger Large Conference in football only, so is there a chance that the two city schools could still play a conference schedule?

McCormick doesn’t think so.

“I’ve talked to other Badger ADs, and they seem to think that the majority of the schools in the Badger (conference) will follow the Dane County policy and will likely begin the school year in a virtual format,” McCormick said. “There are just too many what-ifs if we start the school year on campus. If a teacher gets COVID, do you have to quarantine all those he or she came in contact with? If a football player tests positive, is the whole team forced to quarantine?

“By moving the fall sports season to the spring, we’ll hopefully have more answers by then and everybody will be back to learning in school.”

With fall sports not likely to happen, what happens to the fall coaches that are under contract?

“That’s something we talked about during our meeting,” McCormick said. “I can’t speak for the other districts, but I would expect the Janesville coaches to get 50% of their pay, much like the spring coaches did.

“And the expectations are going to be much higher (on the coaches) than they were last spring when everything happened so fast. My guess is a lot will be decided either way in the next couple of weeks.”

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