Janesville Parker’s Ke’Shawn Pritchard watches a warmup drill ahead of a Big Eight Conference game against Sun Prairie last September at Monterey Stadium in Janesville. Returning Vikings football players hope to play some games this fall, and the WIAA on Thursday voted to attempt to conduct a delayed fall sports season amid the coronavirus pandemic. Football, volleyball and boys soccer teams cannot begin practice until the week of Sept. 7, but boys and girls cross country, girls golf, girls swim and girls tennis can begin practicing Aug. 17.

There will be a fall high school sports season in Wisconsin.

Exactly which or how many schools are able to participate, what that season looks like and what kind of championship run it includes remains to be seen.

The WIAA Board of Control voted 8-3 on Thursday to attempt to have the fall season but to delay its start due to circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sports considered low-risk by health officials (boys and girls cross country, girls golf, girls swim and girls tennis) can begin practicing Aug. 17. Higher-risk fall sports (football, boys soccer and volleyball) cannot begin practice until the week of Sept. 7.

The Big Eight Conference, which is home to Janesville Parker, Janesville Craig and Beloit Memorial high schools, announced Tuesday it will not conduct conference games this season and will not crown league champions.

School districts in Madison, Middleton and Sun Prairie—making up six of the Big Eight’s 10 teams—have already announced plans to return to the classroom virtually this fall, and sports are not expected to be allowed without in-person schooling.

Parker athletic director Clayton Kreger said the plan for the two city schools going forward is to schedule nonconference games for all sports except football.

The city schools’ football programs are set to move to the new Badger Large Conference this season and could play a shortened season in that conference.

“Certainly a lot can change, but as of right now we’ll look into scheduling as many nonconference competitions as we can for all our sports,” Kreger said. “A lot will depend on what other districts do as far as schooling goes between now and the start of the school year.

“If other members of the Badger Large decide to learn virtually to start the school year, that would change our plans in football moving forward. We’re just going to have to wait and see.”

Kreger and Craig athletic director Ben McCormick are expected to meet with other officials within the Janesville School District Friday morning to discuss the best way to proceed with fall sports.

McCormick said that despite the Big Eight ruling out any conference competitions in all sports, Craig and Parker could play each other in any sport. It would be considered nonconference competition.

“That’s a district decision,” McCormick said of which schools a team could play against. “Let’s take football, for instance. If our Badger Large season gets canceled, we could still play Milton, Parker or Beloit (Memorial) and count them as a nonconference game. Maybe we could have some kind of round-robin format where we play each of those schools twice and that gets us to six games.

“But a lot of things are still up in the air and yet to be decided. All I know is that we are allowed a fall season for sports, and I’m going to try and schedule as many nonconference games as I can.”

As a provision to Thursday’s WIAA vote, districts or conferences that opt not to participate in fall sports or that are not allowed to participate due to local pandemic restrictions or guidelines will be provided an opportunity to conduct fall sports next spring.

The scheduling decision affects only the 2020-21 school year.

The WIAA added the July meeting to its schedule to discuss fall sports and to consider a plan that proposed moving fall sports to the spring of 2021 and the spring sports to the summer of 2021. After much discussion, that proposal was never put to a vote despite it gaining some favor.

The WIAA polled district superintendents last week. Included was a question asking whether a district would be in favor of: beginning fall sports on time; delaying the start of fall sports; cancelling fall sports altogether; or the plan to move the fall season to spring. The plan to shift seasons gained 51.25% of 359 votes, followed by delaying the season (22.28%), beginning on time (15.6%) and cancellation (10.31%).