School districts in these 10 states have canceled fall sports

Citing safety and social-emotional concerns, many school and athletic leaders are keeping their student-athletes off the field. Some are even delaying participation until 2021.
By: | August 7, 2020
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Football is king in the state of Pennsylvania, especially at the high school level, but it is in danger of being canceled this fall, along with many other activities.

This week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recommended that all scholastic fall sports in his state be postponed until 2021, heeding advice from state public health officials and the state Department of Education.

On Thursday, Uniontown School District south of Pittsburgh was one of the first to decide to play it safe and go without contact sports (football and soccer) in the fall. Like many districts, its has opted to start the school year with virtual instruction so students will not be on campus.

“I was not willing to put one student, one parent, one family, extended family member or staff member in jeopardy,” Uniontown Area School Superintendent Charles Machesky said in an interview with TV affiliate KDKA.

Though Gov. Wolf’s guidance didn’t sit well with the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, which said it was disappointed in the decision and that “member schools have worked diligently to develop health and safety plans to allow students the safe return to interscholastic athletics,” many leaders both at the state and district level are weighing their options.

Although many districts have put robust protocols in place to try to prevent and eliminate the potential spread of coronavirus – such as temperature checks, social distancing and expanded cleaning procedures – several have decided it’s too risky, including another Pennsylvania district, Norristown.

In fact, athletic associations in a few states – Delaware, Oregon and Maryland – have opted to eliminate their fall seasons altogether.

School districts in many states are taking the same approach, opting to wipe out some sports, all sports and even some activities for the fall:

Alabama: Where football is also king, Barbour County took the extra-cautious step of canceling its sports schedule for the entire school year. Football coach Chad Martin, in an interview with AL.com, said, “We all love football and we all want to get out there, play and do everything we can to do that, but you have to think not only of player safety.” Greene County and Sumter County high schools also eliminated play in the fall. Those decisions may have a profound impact on scheduling, especially for other schools that continue to play … The city that produced the great Bo Jackson, Bessemer, and its district, decided to cancel all middle school sports this fall. According to a report from a local ABC News affiliate, there was a notable decrease in students and parents interested in athlete participation.


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California: One of the first and most notable states to delay its seasons, California pushed all fall and winter sports to at least December and likely into January. “We are continuously monitoring the directives and guidelines released from the Governor’s Office, the California Department of Education, the California Department of Public Health, and local county health departments and agencies,” the California Interscholastic Federation said in a statement in July.

Delaware: In a bold move affecting all districts, the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association has canceled all fall sports across the state and says it will consider bringing them back in February 2021 in a “condensed season model” that likely would run six weeks, with two weeks of playoffs. The DIAA is hoping to keep its winter sports model intact and run in its traditional time frame, starting Dec. 1.

Maryland: As coronavirus cases have spiked again and schools are heading toward a virtual opening, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association opted to cancel both the fall and winter sports seasons, citing “the physical and social-emotional health of students.”  The decision affects a huge number of sports: field hockey, football, volleyball, cross country, soccer, golf, basketball, indoor track, swimming and wrestling.

Michigan: The Lansing School District, which has gone to entire remote instruction to start the school year, canceled all sports, band and cheerleading “until further notice” Superintendent Sam Sinicropi said in a statement: “Unlike college and professional sports where decisions are driven by money, our decisions about sports and extracurricular activities must be made with safety as our defining factor.”

Mississippi: There will be no sports, choir band or cheerleading at Greenville Public School District this fall and there is a meeting on Sept. 22 to determine what will happen with winter sports, according to a report the Clarion Ledger.

New Jersey: Noting concerns over safety, the social-emotional wellbeing of athletes, and the potential financial strain, Superintendent David Aderhold said Thursday that the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District had canceled all fall sports and band. “There is an inherent risk in bringing athletes, fans and coaches from other districts, or the risk that another district may experience as we bring our students, coaches, and fans to their school community. Unfortunately, these risks could completely invalidate all our efforts to keep our school community safe and our schools open.” Carteret Public Schools also opted to cancel both sports and band this fall.

Ohio: At the advice of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, North Royalton school district has chosen to eliminate play this fall, “unless the extracurricular or activity can be held remotely.” Classes are slated to begin Sept. 1 there, with at least the first nine weeks of instruction going online. Toledo Public Schools also has canceled fall sports and will have a meeting on Oct. 1 to determine the fate of winter sports. Poland Local School District this week halted football, volleyball and soccer for 14 days after athletes tested positive for Covid-19. Stewart County High School, Riverside Military Academy and Twiggs County High also all canceled fall seasons.

Oregon: Like Delaware, Oregon’s School Activities Association has pushed back sanctioned competition for student-athletes and limited each season to seven weeks. The OSAA schedule now features basketball beginning in January, football beginning in March and baseball starting in May. The association is allowing regional participation to happen at the discretion of school districts.

Wisconsin: The 16-school Badger Conference and Big 8 Conference said they will not host athletic events this fall, though school districts can opt to hold their own competitions. “Since all member schools are not able to participate fully in conference contests during the current fall season dates as scheduled, Badger Conference competitions will not be held, and conference champions will not be named,” the conference said in a release.

Virginia: High school sports will not begin until at least December after its overarching league opted to forego play in the fall. As with a couple of other state plans, Virginia is hoping to begin its athletic season with winter sports. Traditional fall sports would open in mid-February, with spring sports stretching into late June. “This plan also allows schools the opportunity to open the year and get school started and deal with issues such as schedules, academic plans, transportation, dealing with possible outbreaks of COVID in the school,” Virginia High School League Executive Director Billy Haun said in a release.


Chris Burt is a reporter and editor for District Administration.