An alternative fall sports season is now in place in Kansas.
By a 45-29 vote Friday, the Kansas State High School Activities Association’s Board of Directors approved the creation of an alternative fall sports season to be played in the spring of 2021.
"We’ve talked a lot about this over the past several months because we know we’re in a very difficult position for a number of our schools," KSHSAA executive director Bill Faflick said in his opening remarks on Friday’s Zoom meeting with 74 members of the Board of Directors. "We have a global pandemic that’s impacted literally every life and impacted at varying levels across our respective school communities across Kansas. It was important for our staff to be responsive and lead with development of a plan.
"The bottom line is you have to understand the ‘Why.’ We want to provide opportunities for our schools to offer to their students where it’s appropriate the ability to participate in interscholastic activities. We believe in the value of them and know that the life lessons learned by our kids in these activities should be available whenever and wherever it is appropriate and possible to do so. We know our kids benefit through that participation in the activities they love."
The board had very little discussion about providing that opportunity for an alternative fall season, and after an amendment to the potential for a delayed spring season, the vote was made and approved that option.
So what does that entail?
Well, any school that chooses to delay a fall activity until the alternative fall schedule in the spring can do so. The decision by each school can also be sport-specific, meaning a school can opt for the alternative fall for some of its sports while conducting others in the traditional fall setting.
For schools that choose to take advantage of the alternative fall season, it looks like this:
• Practices for all fall sports would begin on March 1.
• Cross country. First day of competition: March 17. End date: April 23. No. of competitions: 5 meets.
• Football. First day of competition: March 17. End date: April 23. No. of competitions: 6 games.
• Girls golf. First day of competition: March 5. End date: April 12. No. of competitions: 6 tournaments.
• Gymnastics. First day of competition: March 19. End date: April 23. No. of competitions: 8 meets.
• Boys soccer. First day of competition: March 12. End date: April 23. No. of competitions: 12 matches.
• Girls tennis. First day of competition: March 5. End date: April 17. No. of competitions: 6 tournaments.
• Volleyball. First day of competition: March 12. End date: April 23. No. of competitions: 27 matches.
For all fall sports being played in the alternative model, there will be no postseason competitions. Team championships for any sport in the traditional fall will be held as long as there are eight or more participating schools in the respective classification.
If there are not eight teams left to compete for a championship in a respective class or sport, there will be no championship held for that sport in that class.
"There would not be a fall championship and there would not be a spring championship," Faflick said. "We’re pretty solid with that. ... The spring is about the opportunity to participate. This whole thing is about the opportunity to participate. Yes, you’re pursuing a championship, but you’re also pursuing excellence and getting better and improvement. You can still learn through that process whether you have that championship at the end or not.
"If a team doesn’t win a championship or even qualify for the playoffs, that does not mean that season is a loss or a waste. The learning that takes place is still realized for the individual kids on those teams and in those programs."
The approval of an alternative fall season could be an outlet pursued by many of the state’s metropolitan high schools, with several districts in those areas either suspending or outright canceling fall sports at their respective high schools.
As of Friday, the Kansas City Kansas Public School district and Wichita Public School District had canceled all fall sports. The Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley, Olathe and Topeka Public School districts have suspended some or all of their activities until varied dates in September, while Lawrence Public Schools on Thursday suspended the start of football at its schools.
For those schools, the opportunity to have a season, albeit in the spring and without the prospect of a state championship, could provide some relief for their student-athletes.
"Any time kids have opportunities, it’s a win," Faflick said. "That’s the basis for this decision. Our member schools needed the option — they may not know now that they need it — but there are some that do. It’s worth it even if we do it just for the five Kansas City Kansas public schools that look like they’re not going to have a season.
"We’re sitting here on Aug. 28, but what’s it going to look like on Sept. 15 or Sept. 28. There may be more schools that simply cannot continue. They may not know that now, but at least they know there’s an option for their school down the road. It’s not going to be the same, but it’s better than throwing our hands up and saying, ‘This is too hard.’ It’s not too hard, it’s worth the effort when kids are going to benefit."
Schools have until Sept. 21 to decide whether or not they want to pursue the alternative fall for any of their sports. Decisions can be made after that date, as well, as long as schools meet certain criteria regarding number of competitions a sport has participated in and cutoff dates for practices.
• Cross country: four meets or beyond Oct. 10.
•Football: five games or beyond Oct. 17.
• Girls golf: five meets or beyond Sept. 26.
• Gymnastics: six meets or beyond Sept. 26.
• Boys soccer: nine games or beyond Oct. 10.
• Girls tennis: five meets or beyond Sept. 26.
• Volleyball: 20 points or beyond Oct. 10.
In order to prevent an alternative fall season from cutting into a spring season that was completely wiped out in 2020, the KSHSAA has also created an option for a delayed spring season.
The intent is to proceed with the traditional spring season, in which practices begin on March 1. In order to trigger a delayed start to the spring season, more than half of the schools in each band must participate in the alternative fall season.
In the KSHSAA’s original proposal, one band included Classes 6A, 5A and 4A and the other included Classes 3A, 2A and 1A.
However, at Friday’s meeting, an amendment was proposed by Paola principal Jeff Hines to include Class 4A in the Class 3-2-1A band instead of with Class 6A and 5A.
"(Class) 5A and 6A schools are primarily the schools that are seeing cancellations or delays to their seasons," Hines said. "The demographics of a 4A school more closely resemble those in Classes 1A through 3A. The average size of a town that houses a 5A school is 80,000 residents and the average size of a 4A community is 14,000 residents, so roughly one-fifth. Most of the COVID issues have been occurring in major metropolitan areas and ... the most likely scenario where the need to utilize an alternative fall season is undoubtedly at the 5A and 6A level."
That amendment passed 54-19.
In the delayed spring calendar, practices for baseball, boys golf, girls soccer, softball, girls swimming/diving, boys tennis and track and field would begin on March 28 instead of the traditional March 1 date. Competition in tennis would end June 12, in golf June 21, in swimming/diving June 19, in baseball and softball June 25 and in soccer and track and field June 26.
For all spring sports, championships will be conducted, no matter if a delayed schedule is adopted or not. The season also would include the full schedule as a traditional spring season.
"It was protecting the spring because they lost so much last year," Faflick said. "We did our best to ensure they have a full season with every plan that’s been developed. That’s one of the pillars from which we worked."