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Big Eight Conference athletic directors await further guidance in mapping out plan for fall sports

Big Eight Conference athletic directors await further guidance in mapping out plan for fall sports

High school football

Verona quarterback Adam Bekx hands off to Jackson Acker as the Wildcats take on Sun Prairie in the WIAA's first-round high school football playoffs on Oct. 25 at Curtis Jones Field in Verona.

Big Eight Conference athletic directors will wait for additional guidelines and guidance from the state Department of Public Instruction, local school districts, public health officials and the WIAA prior to addressing fall sports competitions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Big Eight athletic directors had a virtual meeting Monday and decided to add a July 21 meeting, at which they will discuss the status and scheduling of conference competitions in the fall, Madison Memorial athletic director Jeremy Schlitz said after the meeting.

Jeremy Schlitz mug


That will permit the conference to collect additional information from the DPI, school districts and public health about requirements and recommendations and receive sport specific guidance from the WIAA about the nine fall sports (boys cross country, girls cross country, football, girls golf, girls swimming and diving, boys soccer, girls tennis, boys volleyball and girls volleyball).

Practices for the fall sports begin at various times in August.

“We will have a better understanding of what the school model will be like and what county public health will allow,” said Schlitz, who’s also the Madison school district athletic director and serves as secretary for the Big Eight athletic directors.

Schlitz said the conference wants to make the best informed decision about fall sports that are in step with what the schools and public health plan to do. In the meantime, he suggested those involved with prep sports should “be patient and wear a mask.”

Schlitz said at the July 21 meeting the group hoped to see whether modifications to the fall schedule will need to be made.

Scheduling policies also will need to be determined to address what happens if players or a team need to be quarantined due to positive coronavirus tests during the season, including rescheduling for a later date or deciding not to play.

The WIAA last week provided additional summer-coach contact guidelines, which were sport specific. But the Big Eight previously said its schools wouldn’t take part in any competitions or in-person coach-contact in July.

Dane County is in Phase 2 of its Forward Dane plan to reopen in response to the cornoavirus. The four Madison district schools, Middleton, Verona and Sun Prairie are in Dane County. Janesville Craig and Parker and Beloit Memorial are in Rock County.

In addition at Monday’s meeting, it was announced the Big Eight athletic director of the year award will be renamed the Bob Joers Award, honoring the late Middleton athletic director.

Joers, who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last fall, died May 15.

A 2019-20 recipient of the award, normally determined in March, wasn’t selected this school year due to the interruption in the prep sports season, Schlitz said.

The group also welcomed new Middleton athletic director Jamie Sims, new Middleton assistant athletic director Ben White, new Madison La Follette interim athletic director Tim Rockhold and new Madison West permanent athletic director Alicia Pelton.

Pelton had served as the Regents’ interim athletic director since spring, 2019.

Those four individuals were in the virtual meeting, Schlitz said.

The meeting also included procedural discussions for end-of-the-year business (the school year ends Tuesday).

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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.

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