W. Virginia still has some hope

WHEELING, W.Va. — While Ohio closed the book on its 2019-20 winter sports season Thursday morning, West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission Executive Director Bernie Dolan is still holding out hope to complete the girls and boys state basketball tournaments as well as play an abbreviated spring sports season.

“The window is very tight, but we’re still going to try,” Dolan said.

The earliest at which West Virginia schools could even begin to think about playing again would be early May since the schools aren’t set to re-open until April 20 per Governor Jim Justice’s announcement on Wednesday.

“I told my staff that if we go back on the 20th, we have a shot to finish basketball, and we will try to get it in,” Dolan said.

When Dolan says the window is tight, he means the 20th could serve as the last possible chance for both winter and spring sports to make their returns.

“If it’s later than the 20th, everything will be laid to rest (for 2020), including spring,” Dolan said.

Assuming the schools were to re-open, the Mountain State schools would be required to begin a 14-day acclimation or practice period before they can play a game, meaning West Virginia’s first competition date would be May 6.

Originally, Dolan had thought that rule might be relaxed, but with the additional practice time that’s been lost during the school shutdown, he believes his board of directors would still encourage that to make sure student-athletes are worked back into shape to compete.

“If we were to go back on April 21st, our kids would have been out of school for a month, so it becomes hard to relax that rule,” Dolan said. “If we’re not ready to go back to school by that date, there’s some serious health issues in the state and at that point athletics will be way down the list.”

If spring sports come to fruition, the state tournaments would obviously be pushed way back from their normal finishing date, which sees baseball finish during the first weekend in June. The other sports, beginning with tennis in mid May, conclude shortly before Memorial Day weekend.

Finishing in mid June wouldn’t be unprecedented for West Virginia. Dolan, who was the head track coach at Wheeling Park, remembers when the state meet was delayed until June 17 in 1994 due to a measles outbreak.

“It actually happened at the Region 1 track meet at John Marshall,” Dolan recalled. “Everyone at the meet was exposed to measles after a kid broke out with it, so (the SSAC) delayed the meet for a month. I remember that vividly.”

Obviously, there are still moving parts, but Dolan anticipates two or three weeks of the regular seasons before the sports would embark on their postseasons.

Dolan, thought he said the exact formats for the spring sports may be revised somewhat and are still being discussed, said the scheduled venues are where the SSAC intends to play.

“The only (sport) that could have an issue is baseball because of possible conflicts with the West Virginia Power schedule in Charleston,” Dolan confessed.

“Track almost has to stay in Charleston unless we split the classes up, tennis is locked into Charleston because there are two indoor facilities if it rains and softball is on artificial turf and it’s available.”

The formats for the spring sports are still being determined, but Dolan indicated there could be some minor changes to make sure the games are contested.


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