AIA Executive Board votes to cancel winter sports season

Ryleigh Skinner(left) warms up against Jaylynn Rios before their play in game against Valley Christian last season. (Photo by Lee Patterson)

PHOENIX — Citing continued presence of Covid-19 and having the nation’s highest rate of coronavirus hospitalizations, the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) made a recommendation on January 7 to the AIA’s Executive Board to cancel the high school winter sports season. Winter sports consists of basketball, wrestling, spiritline and soccer in the Gila Valley.

SMAC recommended that hospital capacity be considered an important factor when considering the winter season. This week, 93% of all Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and 92% of all inpatient beds are in use, leaving concern that injured students may be unable to receive needed care due to a lack of beds or available medical professionals.

Based on the SMAC recommendations made on January 7, the Executive Board, after nearly two hours of extensive consideration and debate, voted 5-4 in favor of canceling the winter sports season today during a special session.

“Unfortunately, it is expected that the state will see a continued rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations for some time. As medical professionals, we cannot in good conscience recommend that students engage in a winter season under the current conditions,” said SMAC Committee Chair Dr. Wilson. 

A motion was made to continue winter sports with no fans and to have all athletes wear masks during competition. Originally it was only athletes on the sidelines and benches that were to wear masks.

Phoenix Union Athletic Director, Zack Munoz: “I don’t feel we can make a decision that overrides the decision of doctors.” Sites the SMAC recommendations for AIA to cancel season.

Ricky Greer, Athletic Director at Hopi High School: “I take the recommendation from SMAC as a distress signal. I think we have been guilty on this board, in state leadership that we take advantage and take for granted those healthcare workers.”

“Nobody wants to close schools and nobody wants to eliminate high school athletics. But, we are torn, interscholastic activities are an extension of classrooms. “My vote is going to be no.” Said Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter.

Safford Athletic Director and Board President Toni Corona then stated, “I humbly respect all the opinions, all the beliefs, data and insight but I also want to state we don’t kick the can down the road anymore. We have to make this decision today and now.” With that statement the public roll call vote ended 5-4 in favor of cancelation.

Board members voting in favor of cancelation were:

William Duarte, 1A Conference (Superior High School)
Ricky Greer, 2A Conference (Hopi Jr./Sr. High School)
Zack Munoz, Ed.D, 6A Conference (Phoenix Union High School District)
Jim Love, Arizona School Boards Association (Flowing Wells Unified School District)
Tim Carter, Cognia (Yavapai County School Superintendent)

Those in favor of continuing the season were:

Jeannine Brandel, 4A Conference (Flagstaff High School)
Jim Dean, 5A Conference (Dysart School District)
Marcus Williams, Arizona Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (Chandler Unified School District)
Camille Casteel, Ed.D, Arizona School Administrators (Chandler Unified School District)

As the Board President, Corona, only votes in case of a tie but made it clear during the meeting and confirmed with GilaValleyCentral that had she needed to vote, she would have voted to continue sports.

“While we understand the Board’s position, we are saddened by this decision, especially considering that Club sports are continuing. To the best of our knowledge, never in our 100-plus-year history has the AIA canceled an entire season. We want nothing more than for our students to be active in school and participating in interscholastic sports and activities. It is my sincerest hope that all Arizonans will follow the CDC and Arizona Health guidelines by wearing masks, washing hands frequently, and practicing social distance to decrease cases and hospitalizations. If for no other reason, I hope we can do it for the kids.” said AIA Executive Director David Hines.    

Spring sports, scheduled to begin March 1, will be dependent upon statewide metrics improving and further evaluation by SMAC and the Executive Board.