UHSAA looking at spring sports contingencies should pandemic crisis end

MIDVALE — With Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s announcement Tuesday that Utah schools will remain closed through May 1 because of COVID-19, another month was suddenly erased from the already short 2 1/2-month high school spring sports season.

All hope, however, is not lost that spring sports will be canceled entirely.

Like everyone associated with high school sports in Utah right now, Utah High School Activities Association executive director Rob Cuff told the Deseret News on Wednesday that he and his staff are “hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, the old cliché.”

“Right now we remain optimistic that there will be some type of season,” said Cuff.

While acknowledging that everything is out of his control and will be predicated upon Herbert’s decision on whether to reopen schools on May 1, the UHSAA is working on scenarios if high school sports were to return this spring.

The UHSAA board of trustees has asked the UHSAA to explore two different timetables to try to finish the spring sports season. The first window is May 2 to Memorial Day on May 25 — the traditional ending date for high school sports. The second scenario involves pushing the season back to June 13.

The second scenario would require UHSAA member high schools to approve pushing sports into summer, but Cuff said that option hasn’t yet been discussed with member schools.

As of now, Cuff said UHSAA assistant directors Jeff Cluff, Brenan Jackson, Jon Oglesby and Jan Whittaker are exploring the logistics of a three-week season and a six-week season.

“They were given the directive yesterday to look at each of their sports, consider the two different timetables, get input from coaches associations and schools, and try and implement a plan,” said Cuff.

Sometime in mid-April if it’s looking like high schools may reopen after May 1, Cuff said the UHSAA will send a survey to member high schools to gauge their interest in the two options.

Cuff acknowledges there’s a chance the survey will never be sent out.

“If things don’t clear and the governor continues to put restrictions and limitations, then the clock eventually has to run out at some point. We don’t know what that point is at this moment,” said Cuff.

“On the other hand, the most important thing right now, and more important than any sports, is that we’re all safe, and we all try to, for lack of a better word, flatten the curve.”

If high school sports do resume, state tournament qualification sports like track, golf and tennis would seemingly work in either the three- or six-week scenario. The latter would obviously give student-athletes more time to reacclimatize to their sports instead of jumping straight into a potential state qualifying meet or tournament.

For RPI sports baseball, soccer, softball and lacrosse, there are more logistics to work out. State tournaments are typically two weeks, which in the first scenario would give teams just one week of regular-season games. The six-week option gives those four sports up to four weeks to cram in regular-season games, which would be enough for the tournament to still be seeded using the new RPI rankings.

Cuff said the problem with the RPI now is that some teams only played one game before the UHSAA suspended the season on March 16.

“Everyone, and including us as a staff, would like to do tournaments, that’s what we do and that’s who we are. We would like to do them when it becomes safe to do it and have some type of closure,” said Cuff. “The ultimate thing is that our kids need to be safe.”

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