Blueprint in place: State high school officials set target dates for return of sports

The usual caveats are at play and one big asterisk could pop up, but Hawaii high school administrators have begun to lay the foundation for the 2020-21 school year, setting a tentative Aug. 17 start date for football. The remaining five fall sports would begin two weeks later.

Fewer than five weeks after the Hawaii High School Athletic Association canceled spring sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials from the state’s five leagues agreed Monday to a draft calender that would shorten each season to 11 weeks, instead of the usual 14. The lone exception is football, which requires extra conditioning, and would have a 14-week season.

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The calender is pending the approval by the individual leagues, said HHSAA executive director Chris Chun, who is hopeful it will be OK’d by May 26 so the process of setting state and league schedules can be finalized.

“If the virus allows us and assuming everything is open and all the state and county orders are met, we’d have 11 weeks in the fall, followed by 11 weeks in the winter and 11 weeks in the spring and finish up by May 17,” Chun said. “That would give us about a month’s flexibility to extend or postpone seasons if we needed to.”

The proposal pushes the start of football conditioning back roughly five weeks later than in 2019, and the soonest games would be played is the first weekend of September. Last season, girls volleyball practices started on the last Monday in July, with bowling, cross-country, riflery and cheerleading convening on the first Monday in August. Barring a delay in state and county clearances and contingent on the pandemic, Hawaii’s 21 high school sports would maintain their traditional spot on the calendar.

Earlier this month, BIIF executive director Lyle Crozier called football “the elephant in the room” in regard to planning, but Chun said administrators haven’t paid any special attention to the sport — for now.

“I think football does create different kinds of problems because it’s a contact sport and because of the large numbers of people that play it,” he said, “but we haven’t treated it differently as of right now. I think there might be a point that we have to.”

Crozier said Monday that administrators would remain flexible and keep other options on the table as they also follow guidelines set forth by the National Federation of High Schools and Centers for Disease Control.

“If we have to condense seasons from 11 to seven (weeks), it may be that we cancel state tournaments and everyone just competes for league championships,” Crozier said. “A sport like bowling may be more feasible to start (Aug. 31) than football or girls volleyball.”

Crozier said the possibly of trimming the size of state tournament fields – because of either shortened seasons or budget cuts – from 12 to eight teams in Division I and girls Division II, was also discussed. Before the 2010 school year, the HHSAA reduced the size of boys D-II state tournaments to eight teams because of budget cuts.

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The HHSAA board is set to hold another meeting May 26, and Crozier said the BIIF ADs would then have a videoconference later in the day.

“We’re trying to be transparent,” Chun said, “and we understand how hard the kids have been working all their lives and how important it is get out on the field. If there is something we can do, we do it.”

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