The WIAA Board of Control suspended tournament travel reimbursements to schools at its January meeting Wednesday.
The Board of Control also approved a limited number of fall sport coaches’ recommendations.
Suspension of the travel reimbursements applies to the 2021 winter, alternate fall and spring culminating events in response to the drastic reduction of revenue generated with limited spectator attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a WIAA release summarizing the meeting.
Following a report of Tuesday’s Advisory Council meeting, the Board of Control plans to conduct a retreat in the coming weeks to discuss exercising its disaster authority as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the release, Article III, Section 4 of the WIAA Constitution authorizes the Board to “levy proportionate fees on member schools in the event of a membership emergency, sufficient to meet the identified emergency and to sustain the operations and services of the Association.”
The WIAA has been conducting business on operational reserves because it hasn’t had the revenue generated by mass attendance at tournament series events since last March, while continuing to offer culminating events and other membership services during that period.
The WIAA has been looking at various possibilities for the girls and boys basketball tournaments that would cover a three-day span in more than one site for the five divisions, with the girls tournament Feb. 25-27 and the boys tournament March 4-6.
Semifinals and the final in each division would be played on the same day.
Each tournament likely will feature two sites, according to reports, with one division playing its semifinals and final on one of the days at one site, two of the divisions playing their respective semifinals and final on one of the days at two sites and the other two divisions playing their respective semifinals and final on a single day at two sites.
Sites haven’t been announced.
According to the WIAA release, following a review of the fall sports recommendations by the Sports Advisory Committee and the Advisory Council, the Board of Control assessed and acted on seven proposals advanced by the fall coaches’ and officials’ advisory committees. Four received approval.
Two recommendations for change in the football regulations received Board of Control support.
The first added language to the playoff procedures to count forfeits as victories for playoff qualifying but not for seeding. Only games actually played will be considered for computer seeding purposes with the results of the games counting for both teams.
The second approved recommendation mandated a playoff ineligibility period until the next two-year realignment cycle for any school football program changing sponsorship to-or-from an 11-player or eight-player program outside the designated realignment process cycle.
In soccer, the Board of Control ratified a recommendation to strike language from the tournament procedures that requires a vote by coaches to retain the half bracket or split into two regional groupings.
As a result, beginning in 2021-22, Sectional 1 in each division will be split into two regional groups, geographically, prior to seeding for both boys and girls soccer tournaments.
Also approved, dependent upon NFHS adoption, is the removal of the experimental designation of the 45-minute halves in the season regulations. If not approved by the NFHS, halves will return to 40 minutes in 2021-22.
Addressing the pending winter tournament series, the Board of Control approved hosting and attendance policies and requiring appropriately worn masks by participants and spectators, except for competing gymnasts while performing routines.
For regionals and sectionals involving two teams – including basketball and hockey – host schools are to provide a minimum of four spectators per travel party as defined in the tournament regulations. Schools able to accommodate only two spectators per travel party member at the regional level must contact the WIAA office.
For regionals and sectionals involving multiple teams – including wrestling, boys swimming and diving and gymnastics – host schools are to provide a minimum of two spectators per travel party.
The Board of Control also approved fast-tracked, non-football conference realignment requests by New Richmond to move from the Middle Border Conference to the Big Rivers Conference and by White Lake to transition from the Northern Lakes Conference to the North Division of the Central Wisconsin Conference, effective in 2021-22.
For statewide uniformity and consistency during the tournaments, the Board of Control reaffirmed the policy requiring a 14-day quarantine period for individuals having close contact with positive COVID-19 cases.
Other items receiving Board of Control action were procedural approvals of the general fund, deferred liability fund and general financial statements, as well as the approval of the adjusted 2019-20 audit.
The WIAA executive staff shared with the Board of Control the decision to suspend the state Scholar-Athlete Awards selections with recognition limited to local school recipients for 2020-21.
The disruption of traditional sports seasons, tournaments and conference programming during the pandemic significantly affects the integrity of applying the award selection criteria.
Other topics of discussion included a review of pending legal matters regarding virtual school, transfer eligibility and officials’ assault legislation; Constitutional amendments; alternate fall season; NFHS-related items; possibly delaying the annual meeting scheduled in April; Spirit of Sport Award nominations; and Advisory Council and Board of Control elections.