BISMARCK — The Western Dakota Association has made changes to its upcoming fall schedules due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league announced Wednesday, July 29.
That includes canceling nonconference competition between West Region and East Region teams among the state's largest high schools. There are also plans to cancel in-season tournaments in sports like volleyball and tennis, and limit the amount of teams that can compete at an invitational meet in sports like cross country and swimming and diving.
The Eastern Dakota Conference redesigned its football schedule Wednesday after the elimination of nonconference games against WDA teams. The EDC is moving its Weeks 3-6 games to Weeks 1-4. Those first four games will be followed by a bye week during the fifth week of the season.
The final three conference games are slated to be played with another bye week built in after the last game of the regular season. The first football games are currently scheduled for Aug. 28, with the first bye week set for Sept. 25. The final bye week is Oct. 24.
"Our thought there is we have to have a make-up game or we have some teams that get sick and have to sit for two weeks, then we’ve got a chance to get most of their schedule in," said Todd Olson, the activities director for Fargo Public Schools.
“We just don’t know what’s going to happen," added West Fargo athletic director Jay DeCann. "It might just be a week to make sure we’re deep cleaning equipment. It might be a week that we have to try to make up a game. There are just so many unknowns right now.”
Part of Wednesday's WDA release read: “The health and well-being of all its stakeholders remain the highest priority. WDA officials recently approved scheduling changes for its fall sports to reduce health risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic."
The North Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors approved "return to competition guidelines" late last week to provide guidance for member schools as the fall sports season nears. Each school district has to develop its own health guidelines and protocols that ultimately need to be approved by local health officials.
“Every school district is working on their own ‘return to play’ protocols. ... It’s a lot of work being done by a lot of people right now," DeCann said. “We’re doing the best that we can right now to make sure that our protocols are safe for our coaches and our kids.
"It’s just such a fluid situation and then the unknown. ... There is so much out there. It’s really hard right now to decide what’s right and what’s wrong and what do we need to be doing.”
Currently, the NDHSAA has kept the windows for all fall activities the same, Olson said. He added the details on how to run a game or event, including fan attendance, needs to be worked out in the coming weeks.
“We have a lot of things to figure out with schedules yet, and then what’s a game going to look like in, pick your activity," Olson said. "A lot of things are up in the air yet.”
Olson said sports like golf and tennis would likely change very little, while sports like boys and girls cross country and girls swimming will need to have their meets limited, downsized to less schools than in the past. Volleyball is also going to eliminate larger in-season tournaments, while boys soccer won't play its crossover games with the WDA.
The WDA announced meets for sports such as cross country and swimming would be limited to six teams or less. Olson said the EDC has considered limiting its invitational events to four teams or less in preliminary discussions.
“We’re trying to keep things very tight as a conference and hoping for the best," Olson said. “We’re going to reduce the size of all of our invitational tournaments.”
Below are the fall sports schedule changes that the WDA announced Wednesday:
Football: All Class 3A nonconference games with East Region teams are canceled. Class 2A schools will continue with their schedules as planned. Postseason playoffs remain in place for now.
Volleyball: In-season tournaments for varsity and sub-varsity teams have been canceled. The WDA will conduct its current schedule plan. Postseason tournaments remain in place for now.
Boys soccer: Nonconference matches with the East Region are canceled. The WDA will conduct a double round robin schedule for its teams. Postseason tournaments remain in place for now.
Cross country (boys/girls): A modified schedule will be in place for the regular season that includes limiting all invitational meets to six teams or less. The postseason meets remain in place for now.
Girls swimming and diving: A modified schedule will be in place for the regular season which includes limiting all invitational meets to six teams or less. The postseason meets remain in place for now.
Boys tennis: Nonconference matches with the East Region are canceled as well as any in-season invitational tournaments. The WDA will conduct a double round robin schedule for its teams. Postseason tournaments remain in place for now.
Girls golf: The annual crossover tournament with the East Region is canceled. All other regular season conference tournaments remain scheduled. The postseason meets remain in place for now.