Delaware cancels fall sports, eyes shortened seasons starting in December

Football and other fall scholastic sports are canceled for now in Delaware. (Smyrna High School)

Football and other fall scholastic sports are canceled for now in Delaware. (Smyrna High School)

Delaware has reported 15,455 cases of the coronavirus and 588 related deaths. As of Friday, 37 people were hospitalized, 15 of them in critical condition.

While Delaware school districts mull whether to open with hybrid learning or remote only, the state’s governing body for scholastic athletics has canceled all sports for the fall season.

Calling the decision a “delay,” the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA) is now proposing a “condensed season model that will begin in December.”

School sports were abruptly shut down in March, shortly after the coronavirus began spreading and Gov. Carney closed the schools. This week Carney said schools couldn’t reopen fully yet but can teach kids using a mix of in-class and online learning, or just online.

Under the DIAA’s “return to play” scenario, the slate of sports would begin in December with the traditional winter season in swimming, basketball and others.

Fall sports such as field hockey, cross country and volleyball and boys’ soccer would begin in mid-February.

Spring sports such as baseball, girls’ soccer and track and field would start in mid-April.

Under the current Phase 2 of reopening that Delaware has been in since late June, football and wrestling are not approved to be played.

That won’t happen until Carney gives the green light for the state to enter Phase 3 of reopening, a step that requires minimal community spread of the coronavirus. So, if the state isn’t in Phase 3 and winter sports start in December, wrestling will still be prohibited. The same will hold true for football if the state remains in Phase 2 when the traditional fall season starts.

In the meantime, coaches cannot hold formal practices but are allowed to provide out-of-season instruction to their players, which includes conducting open gyms and conditioning programs.

The sports association plans to work with public health officials, district administrators, athletic directors, trainers and its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee about specific season start dates, and vote on them at its September meeting.

DIAA executive director Donna Polk told WHYY on Friday she realizes that the proposed timetable might have to be scrapped.

“That is a great possibility,’’ Polk said. “The virus is still here. It’s not going anywhere right now. It’s just a wait and see kind of game.

That leaves the 27,000 athletes in limbo.

“We’re just wanting them to keep their heads up. Stay strong,’’ Polk said. “One day again, we’re gonna play sports. It’s just unfortunate for our seniors last year and our seniors this year that some of those opportunities are not happening right now.”

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