Prep Sports

A somewhat radical plan for 2020-21: Switch Iowa high school fall sports to spring, spring sports to fall

The model includes a 7-game football regular season beginning March 19, 32-team playoffs, state championships in June

West Liberty's Gavin Chown (center) yells as he celebrates with teammates after their football win at Tipton last Octobe
West Liberty’s Gavin Chown (center) yells as he celebrates with teammates after their football win at Tipton last October. Citing COVID-19, The Gazette’s Jeff Linder has put together a model drastically revising the 2020-21 Iowa high school athletics calendar, which would put football in the spring. Sports that are non-contact, like track and field, golf and tennis, would move to the fall. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

The next paragraph will be tough to read. Heck, it’s agonizing to write. But here goes:

I don’t think we’re going to be able to play high school football in Iowa this fall.

Before you fire off that nasty email, know this: I staunchly supported the go-ahead for baseball and softball this summer. I applaud the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union for giving it a go.

Has the season been an unmitigated success? No. As of Friday, two baseball teams — including Class 4A top-ranked West Des Moines Dowling — and seven softball teams have had their seasons end prematurely due to positive COVID-19 tests, and those numbers will continue to rise in the days to come. About half of the Mississippi Valley Conference has had teams pause, then restart, awaiting a test that came back negative.

Has the season been a failure? No. The vast majority of the teams have marched on, unaffected and uninfected. Let’s hope it stays that way as the postseason begins and takes us to Principal Park and the Rogers Sports Complex for state tournaments later this month.

But then what?

Most fall sports are scheduled to begin four weeks from Monday. That includes football and volleyball, the sports that have the highest participation for boys and girls, respectively.

They’re also, obviously, sports of social non-distancing. Football, of course, is a mega-contact sport. And how appealing, how safe, does an eight- or 12-team volleyball invitational in a hot gym on a September Saturday sound at this point?

To salvage these sports for 2020-21, we should delay them.

On the other hand, there are some sports that lend themselves nicely to social distancing. Golf and tennis, for sure. Tuesday’s meet at Brooklyn — put on by Track Guy Foundation — was evidence that track and field could work.

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So here’s one guy’s potential solution for the 2020-21 Iowa high school calendar. Flip fall sports to spring, spring sports to fall.

In this model, first day of practice for track and field, tennis and golf would be Aug. 10. First date of competition would be Aug. 24. State tournaments for all would be in October.

Winter seasons — basketball, wrestling, bowling and boys’ swimming — would begin and end two weeks earlier than the current calendar.

With the hope that maybe COVID-19 will slow down or a vaccine is developed, football, volleyball, cross country and girls’ swimming become spring sports, with a first day of practice March 1.

I propose a seven-game regular season for football, eliminating current Weeks 1 and 2 on the schedule. The first Friday of competition would be March 19. Five rounds of playoffs (32 teams in each class) would begin May 7, with the state championships June 3-4 at the UNI-Dome.

The state volleyball tournament would be May 17-20 at the U.S. Cellular Center. State cross country would be May 1, girls’ state swimming and diving May 7-8.

The start of baseball and softball practice would be moved back to May 24, with the season condensed by one week.

My model originally had soccer in the fall, but I have since moved it to next summer.

Here’s a concern I have heard, and it’s a valid one:

“If spring sports are moved to fall, and then shut down, that will mark two years in a row those sports aren’t contested.”

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The best solution is this. If, in four weeks, it is determined that schools will be closed and/or fall activities must be suspended, it would be the regular fall sports that would be affected, and the normal calendar year will take hold.

With all of that said, here is what my Iowa high school sports calendar would look like for 2020-21, with — hopefully — a return to normalcy starting in the fall of 2021:

Fall

TRACK & FIELD, GIRLS & BOYS

• First practice: Aug. 10

• First date of competition: Aug. 24

• State-qualifying meets: Oct. 1

• State championships: Oct. 8-10

GIRLS’ TENNIS

• First practice: Aug. 10

• First date of competition: Aug. 24

• State qualifying begins: Oct. 9

• State championships: Oct. 15-17

BOYS’ TENNIS

• First practice: Aug. 10

• First date of competition: Aug. 24

• State qualifying begins: Oct. 10

• State championships: Oct. 15-17

GIRLS’ GOLF

• First practice: Aug. 10

• First date of competition: Aug. 24

• State qualifying: Oct. 5 (sectionals), Oct. 12 (regionals)

• State championships: Oct. 16-17

BOYS’ GOLF

• First practice: Aug. 10

• First date of competition: Aug. 24

• State qualifying: Oct. 6 (sectionals), Oct. 13 (districts)

• State championships: Oct. 19-20

Winter

BOYS’ SWIMMING

• First practice: Oct. 26

• First date of competition: Nov. 6

• Districts: Jan. 23

• State championships: Jan. 30

BOWLING, GIRLS & BOYS

• First practice: Oct. 26

• First date of competition: Nov. 9

• State-qualifying meets: Feb. 2

• State championships: Feb. 8-10

WRESTLING

• First practice: Nov. 2

• First date of competition: Nov. 13

• State qualifying: Jan. 23 (sectionals), Jan. 30 (districts)

• State tournament: Feb. 3-6

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

• First practice: Oct. 26

• First date of competition: Nov. 6

• Postseason begins: Jan. 28

• State tournament: Feb. 15-20

BOYS’ BASKETBALL

• First practice: Nov. 2

• First date of competition: Nov. 13

• Postseason begins: Feb. 4

• State tournament: Feb. 22-26

Spring

CROSS COUNTRY, GIRLS & BOYS

• First practice: March 1

• First date of competition: March 15

• State-qualifying meets: April 22

• State championships: May 1

GIRLS’ SWIMMING & DIVING

• First practice: March 1

• First date of competition: March 15

• State-qualifying meets: April 29 (diving), May 1 (swimming)

• State championships: May 7-8

VOLLEYBALL

• First practice: March 1

• First date of competition: March 15

• Postseason begins: May 3

• State tournament: May 17-20

FOOTBALL

• First practice: March 1

• First date of competition: March 19 (first week of 7-week regular season)

• Playoffs (32 qualifiers): May 7 (first round), May 14 (second round), May 21 (quarterfinals), May 27-29 (semifinals)

• State championships: June 3-4

Summer

GIRLS’ SOCCER

• First practice: May 3

• First date of competition: May 17

• Postseason begins: June 14

• State tournament: June 28, 30, July 2

BOYS’ SOCCER

• First practice: May 3

• First date of competition: May 17

• Postseason begins: June 14

• State tournament: June 29, July 1, 3

SOFTBALL

• First practice: May 24

• First date of competition: June 7

• Postseason begins: July 6

• State tournament: July 19-23

BASEBALL

• First practice: May 24

• First date of competition: June 7

• Postseason begins: July 10

• State tournament: July 23-24, 26-31

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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