Latest on high school fall sports from WVSSAC’s Bernie Dolan

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Fall sports at the high school level are scheduled to begin on Monday, August 17, with most sports first scheduled contests set for Sept. 2-4.

We spoke with Executive Director of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, Bernie Dolan, once again on Thursday to get the latest on where things stand regarding high school sports in West Virginia.

According to Dolan, as of now, the plan is to have fall sports start on Monday. But they are still awaiting the proper numbers from the West Virgnia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).

“We are waiting for the metrics to come out, which will guide the schools and in turn will guide athletics,” said Dolan.

He did say, though, than a more official ruling on whether or not fall sports will happen on time should be expected to come down near Sept. 1, which is the deadline for the West Virginia Department of Education to announce how schools will operate in the state.

“I would say that’s a fair time frame,” said Dolan.

Here are more takeaways from our conversation with Dolan.

Color-coded map

We reported on Wednesday that when Dolan addressed the WV Dept. of Education, he was still awaiting the metrics for the color-coded map of active cases in the state that the WV DHHR and the WVSSAC will use moving forward.

That is still the case.

“There will be a color code that will be associated with a county and a school, and that will have a corresponding extra-curricular component with it,” said Dolan.

Dolan says he expects that map to be released soon, however. He also confirmed that the four colors will be red, orange, yellow, and green. A county shaded green will be good to go, while a county in red won’t be able to play, and games involving teams in that county will be ruled a ‘no contest’ until they are able to play again.

He added that until the WVSSAC sees the official metrics, they won’t comment further on what the colors of the maps determine.

It’s still to be determined what high schools in yellow or orange counties will be able to do.

Dolan also said he expects the map to be released either once or twice a week.

Will fans in attendance?

The metrics from the color-coded map will also figure into how many, if any, fans can attend games and contests this fall.

As we reported Wednesday, Dolan is expecting a limited fan capacity for schools. Due to that, the WVSSAC is working with schools on getting live streaming of games set up.

“We’re working with the DHHR, the Department of Ed, and the governor’s office to come up with guidelines for all of that,” Dolan said. “We hope that the metric can help with that.”

And he echoed the fact that crowds will be small.

“The crowds will be significantly smaller so that you’ll be able to social distance,” he said.

Will student-athletes be tested for COVID-19?

“It hasn’t been a requirement through all of our practices and conditioning, so at this point I don’t see that,” Dolan said when asked that question. “Obviously, if there is a reason to test, we certainly will test.”

What if students are not physically in school?

According to Dolan, virtual schooling doesn’t mean that a season is over.

“In our mind, virtual doesn’t eliminate you from participation,” he said.

Dolan also said that there were already rules in place, prior to the arrival of COVID-19, that students who were not physically attending a high school could participate in athletics.

How can high school sports be played when collegiate conferences aren’t playing?

Just this week alone, we have seen the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences, nationally, as well as the Mountain East Conference, locally, postpone fall sports to the spring.

We asked Dolan if he was still confident that high school sports could be played in West Virginia when collegiate conferences are postponing.

He made mention to the larger geographies of college conferences, compared to that of West Virginia-only high schools.

“In high school you’re really limited to two communities, and for the most part, most of our communities in West Virginia are in great shape,” he said.

Minimal number of contests

With the possibility that counties could stay in the red for the majority of the fall, we asked Dolan what will happen if a team is only able to play a few games.

Using football as an example, Dolan said that as of now, the WVSSAC is looking at five games being the least amount of games a team could play and still qualify for the postseason – if there is a postseason.

But Dolan added that if a large number of teams are being forced to shut down for multiple weeks, that number could be reduced further.

It’s up to everyone to keep counties in the green

Once again, Dolan stressed that it is up to each individual in all 55 counties to help limit the spread of COVID-19, which in turn will allow student-athletes to play this fall.

“If we want games played, and we want people at the games, then people are going to have to follow some guidelines for this,” said Dolan. “We think that athletics and sporting teams, along will all of our other extra-curricular activities can be the driving force of each community to do better, to get your number (of active COVID-19 cases) down, so that these activities can happen. Because, as your community number (of active cases) goes up, you’re ability to play and go to games goes down.”

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