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Prep sports: Badger Conference will not hold an official winter sports season
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Prep sports: Badger Conference will not hold an official winter sports season

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The 16 high schools in the Badger Conference have pulled the plug on an official conference winter sports season.

In a Friday evening news release, the conference announced: “Since all member schools are not able to participate fully in conference contests during the upcoming winter season dates as scheduled, sanctioned Badger Conference competitions will not be held and conference champions will not be named.”

However, the conference has left each member school free to set up its own non-conference winter sports seasons. The WIAA also has approved such a scenario.

For each sport at each school, practices and non-conference games would have to be approved under local and county health department guidelines and by school administrators and boards.

However, current Dane County guidelines (under Dane County Order No. 9) appear to ban many types of practice and all competitions in the winter sports — boys and girls basketball, boys and girls hockey, wrestling, boys swimming and gymnastics — because they would be held indoors, where restrictions are tighter.

The Dane County Health Department's COVID-19 dashboard indicated Friday night that the county had 12,340 confirmed cases, 449 requiring hospitalization, and 46 deaths. The greatest number of confirmed cases came in two age groups: 10-19 and 20-29.

Seven of the 16 schools in the Badger Conference are located in Dane County: DeForest, Madison Edgewood, Monona Grove, Mount Horeb, Oregon, Stoughton and Waunakee. The other nine are spread across six different counties.

A letter from Oregon administrators posted on a parent’s Facebook page read, in part:

“(T)he Oregon School District will suspend all high school and middle school winter sports competitions until allowed by Public Health Madison and Dane County. We realize that our current situation is not easy for any of us and has been extremely challenging for our students, parents, and coaches.”

However, Portage athletic director Ed Carlson said in an email that “at this time, Portage High School plans on moving forward with winter sports this season, with increased safety protocols and advisement from the 2020 WIAA Return to Winter Sports considerations.”

Sauk Prairie athletic director Josh Boyer also said his school would pursue a non-conference winter sports season.

Some Badger Conference schools chose to play a non-conference fall sports season. For instance, Baraboo, Portage, Reedsburg, Sauk Prairie and Watertown are in the middle of non-conference fall football seasons, as is Madison Edgewood (which competes in the Badger for all sports except football). Each of those schools also is playing girls volleyball.

Edgewood is playing all its football games on the road this year because football games are banned inside Dane County. Most schools are limiting attendance to two members of each player’s immediate family.

The Badger Conference fall sports programs that chose not to play in the fall are eligible to play in a WIAA-approved alternative spring season, which would run from late February to early May, depending on the sport. For instance, football practice would begin March 8, with first games set for the week of March 23.

The WIAA winter sports guidelines, approved last week, include many sport-specific social distancing and mask-wearing restrictions, for instance, and the restrictive recommendation that wrestling seasons include no meets larger than duals (two schools) with a minimum of six days between meets.

The Big Eight Conference is expected to announce its winter sports season plans this week. The conference called off its fall sports seasons entirely, with all 10 members electing the alternative spring season. The Madison Metropolitan School District on Friday announced that classes would remain virtual through the first semester, which ends on Jan. 22. The Beloit, Sun Prairie and Middleton school districts already have made similar decisions.

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