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Return To Play Colleges and Schools - Western US

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Return To Play Colleges and Schools - Western US

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Here's our first look at what various states are doing with regard to return to school (High School and College) and return to sports.

Having a big influence in the collegiate space will be the Pac-12, and also the NCAA. New guidelines for return-to-play from the NCAA points out that the expectation in July was that COVID-19 cases would be dropping, when in fact they are increasing (see our latest deeper dive into those numbers here: More Straight Talk On COVID, Statistics, And Return To Play).

Part of the NCAA report says: "As reported by the CDC, while surface contact may be a risk, the most impactful determinant of COVID-19 spread is human-to-human contact.[1] COVID-19 spread is greatest when individuals are in a crowded environment with prolonged close contact. Further, the risk of COVID-19 transmission is greater in indoor areas with poor ventilation. Indoor areas with good ventilation are better, and outdoor areas are best. Thus, COVID-19 spread is most likely when individuals are in prolonged close contact in an indoor area with poor ventilation, which has implications for both sport training and sport competition planning."

The NCAA document is mostly about covering their liability with a lot of data about risk factors. However, at the end the document talks about low-risk sports (those that don't require a lot of physical contact) and high-risk sports (such as rugby). About high-risk sports, it says:

"Because it is highly unlikely that physical distancing and universal masking can always be maintained during practice and competition in high contact risk sports, schools should consider necessary testing strategies and protocols to mitigate community spread of COVID-19. Testing protocols should address student-athletes, plus all “inner bubble” personnel (coaches, medical staff, officials and other essential personnel) for whom physical distancing, masking and other protective features are not maintained.

For high contact risk sports teams returning to campus and engaging in voluntary and required summer athletic activities and out-of-season athletic activities, schools should contemplate initial testing upon return. Further, schools should consider surveillance testing every two weeks thereafter during voluntary and required summer athletic activities, as well as out-of-season athletic activities for all student-athletes and “inner bubble” personnel if physical distancing, masking and other protective measures are not maintained. For high contact risk sports that are in-season (preseason, regular season, postseason), weekly surveillance testing should be performed for student-athletes, plus “inner bubble” personnel for whom physical distancing, masking and other protective features are not maintained. (See Table 1 below for graphic summary.)"

That table is on the left. Click on the image to enlarge. The upshot has been that colleges have cut back on non-conference or high-travel games. 

Community college and junior colleges in California have moved  and sports moved to spring

Here is our Western roundup:

Arizona

Arizona will phase in return to sports in schools. Teams are inching their way back.

Source: AZCentral

The University of Arizona has delayed bringing athletes to campus Other than football, who are already there). Grand Canyon University is following the lead of the Western Athletic Conference, which has delayed sports start dates.

Utah

The Utah High School Athletic Association Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to move ahead with the fall season of sports. Now, as we'll mention repeatedly in this article, 15s rugby is a spring sport in high schools in Utah, but they do play 7s in the fall. This vote appears to open the door for that.

"If school's going on, we want them to be able to not only go to school but also participate in extracurricular activities," UHSAA Executive Director Rob Cuff said after the vote. "Just like they can opt out of face-to-face learning, they can opt out of playing high school activities."

Source: Deseret News

BYU is welcoming students back to campus. Students at University of Utah will have a hybrid in-person and online curriculum. Like a lot of schools around the country, UofU has opted to have school go completely online after Thanksgiving so students don't have to travel back to campus between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Utah Valley University is welcoming students back ti campus 

Washington

Fall high school sports are delayed. Of course the thing that will make everyone chuckle is that while sports are delayed until September 7, football starts two days earlier. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Board made the decision last week.

In a statement the Board said: “The Board will continue to work with staff, member schools and state agencies to monitor the impact of COVID-19,” the release states. The Board plans to make its next statement concerning the start of fall sports on July 22nd following its next scheduled meeting. In the interim, a committee of Board members, staff, and select WIAA stakeholders will work to create a fall schedule with the adjusted start dates.”

Source: Tacoma News Tribune

The University of Washington, Gonzaga University, Washington State University are resuming normal classes and activities, but there's always a little caution about it.

Oregon

There is not unity among the school districts in Oregon. Some districts have reopened, but the Oregon High School Athletic Association, is still figuring out a plan.

“We do believe it's important to be able to offer them something, whatever it is, as much as it is we can do safely," said OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber. 

Source: KGW

The University of Oregon is bringing students back but is urging social distancing in activities. Sports is coming back carefully. Other universities are coming back under similarly controlled circumstances.

California

California, being a massive state, has a large number of school districts and a varied problem with COVID-19 cases. Certainly more densely-populated areas 

The big day for the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) is tomorrow, July 20. That is the day when the CIF has to decide if fall sports begin on time or will be delayed. But according to reports, there will be fall sports in some form. That will be good news for the most vulnerable 15s HS league, which is the SoCal CIF league, which begins in December.

Source: Ventura County Star

In college reports, California Community college and junior college sports have been moved to spring. The California State University system announced in May that it will be online only, and didn't say much about sports. 

Idaho

The Idaho High School Activities Association has a plan to start high school sports on time. There is already some youth touch rugby being played in Idaho, and there are plans in place to handle COVID-positive coaches and players.

Source: KTVB

Boise State had a plan to bring athletes back but then put it on hold when some positive tests turned up. But the football team is practicing, and other universities are planning to bring sports back, if in an edited form.

Source: Idaho Statesman


On the College level, then, sports will see edited seasons and varied rules based on conferences. But rugby will likely be affected even more. With almost every college team being non-varsity, they less control of what they can do. (An article in Sports & Media PR Roundup says club sports, especially rugby, could benefit from the cutbacks in varsity sports. That depends on such clubs being able to avoid being shut down because of COVID-19.) Most college rugby in the West is 7s, and not that much 7s, so it's not a massive hardship to just bag the season. But BYU plays in the Rocky Mountain Conference, which is a fall conference, and it's still not confirmed that all of those teams could participate.

The NCRC in the Northwest, plays in the fall and the spring, and expect it to take its time gearing up.

For High School, the league that is most vulnerable is the SoCal-based CIF 15s season that begins in December. They might be a little delayed, but should play. The rest of the 15s seasons are actually looking pretty good. 

As for fall 7s, the most robust season are in Utah, and that could well happen.