On second thought…AIA decides not to cancel winter sports

Jim Love’s vote turned out to be the shot heard ’round the state.

At yesterday’s special meeting of the Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Board, Love reversed his original vote, taken five days ago, from nay to aye.  And suddenly, the high school winter sports season was back on.

The board had originally voted to follow the recommendation of the AIA Sports Medical Advisory Committee and cancelled the winter sports season.  That decision, which would have been the first time in the history of the organization that an entire season was shut down, was a direct result of Arizona’s latest ranking as the No. 1 hotspot in the nation for the COVID-19 surge.

Last Friday, board members decided in a 5-4 vote to cancel the season for basketball, soccer, and wrestling.  But, after an overwhelming push back from the public, a special meeting was called yesterday morning to reevaluate that original decision.

Love, who represents the Flowing Wells Unified School District, switched his vote to put  those in favor of playing the season in the majority.  A major consideration, he said, was the acceptance of the fact that, without a school season, players would likely gravitate to other avenues for competition such as club programs, which would not be as tightly monitored as the school programs.

He also decided, he said, that it would be better to let the individual school districts make the decision on whether or not to play the winter season.

The decision to move forward with the start of the winter season, set now for Jan. 18, comes with some conditions:  players will be required to wear masks, even during competition, and each school will complete a monitoring form and present it to the opposing school before each game or match.

Up to two parents or guardians for each player can attend the games, with the school and county setting the specific guidelines.  Any violation of these conditions would mean the school would lose access to AIA officiating.

The AIA says the situation will be closely monitored as the games begin and re-evaluated as the season progresses.  Should the hospitalizations decrease statewide, the board may, at that time, consider modifications to the protocols.

There will still be some dissatisfaction with the decision going forward, with some coaches welcoming the opportunity to play, even with the restrictions, and other coaches who still feel that overriding the recommendations of the medical advisory committee is a bad idea.

But only time will tell whether it was worth it to give the kids the opportunity to play.

Giving them the green light was a gutsy call.