PHOENIX — The Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Board voted to continue with the winter sports season as planned.
The board voted 5-4 to continue the winter season with competitions beginning on Jan. 18. The vote is the second vote on the matter in four days. The initial vote on Friday morning was 5-4 to cancel the winter sports season. The special meeting overturned that decision and was called after push back from players, coaches and members of the public.
“This is a very difficult time for my board,”said AIA Executive Director David Hines. “They’re in a no-win situation.”
Hines said members were harassed and threatened after Friday’s vote to cancel the season. Board member Jim Love, who voted to not have the winter season on Friday, made the motion to reconsider the previous vote on Tuesday morning. Love flipped his vote from Friday, which was the determining vote to reinstate athletics.
“Because I want the schools to have a choice (I change my vote to yes),” Love said during Tuesday’s special meeting.
Many of the board members agreed that if the AIA did not have a season students would find a way to play, whether it was through pick-up games or club teams. Those who voted to have a season believed that having an AIA-sanctioned season would provide a safe place for athletes to play since there are strict mandates in place.
“(Participating in sports is) a choice,” board member Camille Casteel said. “It’s not a requirement.”
All players, coaches, referees and those in the gym will be required to wear a mask. Players will have to wear a mask while competing on the court. Hines said no exceptions will be made on the mask requirement. Schools that violate any of the mandates and modifications will lose AIA officiating.
Two parents or guardians per athlete will be allowed in the gym for games. It is up to the home team to determine if and how many parents will be allowed to attend. Parents are required to wear masks while in attendance.
While the AIA has made the decision to have a season, local athletes and coaches are still in limbo as they are waiting for superintendents and board approval to continue with their seasons.
“The back and forth is frustrating,” Bisbee girls basketball head coach Courtney Borquez said. “We were given hope and then it was taken from us and now it’s back on the table but now we have to wait for our board to decide if we get to play. I understand both sides but I want a solid answer so I can prepare 100 percent.”
Bisbee’s governing board’s decision wasn’t available by press time of this edition.
Valley Union halted practices Friday after the vote to cancel the season, however Superintendent Kyle Hart said they will resume athletics, despite the school being closed for two weeks after two students and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
“We understand sports is extremely important to these kids and if at all possible we are going to give them every chance to play,” Hart said. “Jeff (Baker) and I are going to meet this weekend and explore all avenues. Sports is important for our students, so we want to try to provide that opportunity but we need to be able to discuss all the pros and cons before a final decision is made.”
Valley Union’s season opener against Duncan on Jan. 22 is in jeopardy due to the current closure.
Tombstone High School Athletic Director Brian Miller said he hopes his teams can return to action later this month. Tombstone has not been practicing since before the holiday break.
Douglas and Buena have their athletic programs on hold despite the AIA’s vote Tuesday. Buena, Douglas and Tombstone must have 14 days of practice before they can compete in any games.
According to a statement issued by Sierra Vista Unified School District: “Buena’s Winter Sports Season will not start until Hybrid learning resumes.
This date will be determined by school and district officials, that is based on the school benchmarks reported to our district by Cochise County Health Services.”