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West Virginia winter sports delayed until March 1

PARKERSBURG — The winter sports season is delayed.

Again.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice made the announcement to push back the start of the season to March 1 at the earliest during Wednesday’s statewide COVID-19 briefing. Initially, the winter sports season was pushed back to Jan. 11, but a spike in infections left a majority of the state unable to participate in any practices or games. That forced Justice’s hand, as he made the announcement nearly 20 minutes through his address. This came after he made the decision to reopen all elementary and middle schools on Jan. 19 due to a large portion of students struggling to keep up with at-home learning. The high schools will continue to operate with the color-coordinated COVID-19 map. Counties in the orange are allowed to have in-person learning, but Justice said the higher transmission rate for older students is what prompted his decision to keep using the map. This is what he said about the winter sports season being delayed.

“And we are targeting March 1 now to be a startup, and I hate this like crazy, but we are going to have to move our winter sports to March 1,” he said. “So, that will be the startup date. We all know our schools are the pillars of our communities, and we absolutely all know we’ve got to do more, and more and more to make them safe.”

Justice, who is also the head coach of the Greenbrier East girls’ basketball team, now waits with other coaches from around the state. The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission was working to make sure the abbreviated season would go off without a hitch in January, but now, the WVSSAC must regroup.

Executive Director Bernie Dolan reacted to Governor Justice’s remarks just hours after they were given.

“Obviously, we heard about it, today. We will have a Zoom meeting with our coaches committees from the spring and winter sports next week on Tuesday,” Dolan said. “On Wednesday, we’ll have a meeting with our athletic directors and principals in another Zoom meeting. From there, we’ll be able to construct a schedule beginning March 1.”

Logistically, Dolan wants to make sure the new date gives kids from all sports time to prepare, and the idea of the winter and spring sports seasons colliding is something he says the SSAC will keep in mind.

“I think we’ll have some overlap that is not going to be able to be avoided, in order to be able to have both seasons,” he said. “I know in the small schools, that’s going to create a challenge. We hope there’s not a lot of overlap. I think some of the seasons will be shorter, so we can try to get the tournaments in. It’s just going to be a matter of looking at the schedule and trying to figure out when we’re going to end. Then, it comes down to what we all can do between the start and the end.”

With a majority of the Mountain State’s 55 counties experiencing increased infection rates, the WVSSAC knew a decision by the governor was going to have to be made sooner rather than later. However, Justice did not tell Dolan or anyone else with the WVSSAC about his plan to push the season back to March. Though, Dolan says the writing was on the wall.

“We didn’t know the date, but we knew he said January 11 earlier,” Dolan said of the situation. “But all along, he had hinted that that’s not a real solid date, based on the map and what was happening throughout the state. He didn’t officially say it before, but I think we all knew the 11th was going to be a very shaky day. We always have contact with (Justice), but in this case, we heard about it about the same time everybody else did. Quite honestly, he’s dealing with the state superintendent, and they control the schools.

We’ll be in line with what’s required of the schools.”

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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