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AIA approves return plan for fall sports in Arizona, including football

(Photo by Tyler Drake)

After hearing from schools around the state, the Arizona Interscholastic Association has approved a return to fall sports calendar amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The AIA announced Wednesday its executive board has voted for a phase-in beginning of fall sports.

“We’re really happy for the student-athletes because of what happened in the spring, basically an entire season was taken away from them, which was heartbreaking for the seniors,” AIA sports information coordinator Seth Polansky told KTAR News. “You didn’t want to go through that again, and if you look around at other states they are either cancelling their fall sports outright or moving it to the spring.

“That was not an option that we had come up with, or if it was it was Plan Z. We wanted for there to be a season for these these kids this fall because of what we saw happen. We’re really happy for the kids to be able to go out and compete and do what they do.”

Football teams can begin practicing Sept. 7. The first games are expected to be played from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, while the championships for 4A-6A and open division are to be played Dec. 11-12.

A total of 36 of the 50 states have fall football kickoff dates, per MaxPreps. Colorado marked the latest state to move football to the spring on Tuesday.

“The health and safety of our student participants, coaches, officials and essential personnel, including volunteers, is the primary concern for the return of interscholastic athletics and activities,” AIA executive director David Hines said in a press release.

“We are very grateful to those who share our commitment of a return to these highly beneficial educational activities and athletics.”

The AIA said schools who have already canceled their fall seasons will also have opportunities for students to participate.

All fall sports will have the opportunity for a championship. The number of games to qualify for the postseason, regular season maximums, region tournaments and all postseason qualifying procedures will be decided by region and conference committees as soon as possible, the AIA added.

The start dates of each sport were identified based on information received from member schools regarding student and personnel safety, and what is most easily administered by athletic directors and coaches, the AIA said.

All fall sports are to continue to operate under the AIA’s out-of-season rules until the first day of practice for each sport.

Additionally, the board voted to have the winter season begin one week later due to the late start of fall sports.

Once the scheduling process has been amended, all schedules will appear on AIA’s website and AZPreps365.

Below is a list of the fall sports start days:

Football

  • First practice: Sept. 7
  • First competition: Sept. 30-Oct. 3
  • Championships: Dec. 11/12 (4A-6A and Open)

The 1A-3A conferences are discussing lengths of their regular seasons and when to hold state championships.

Volleyball

  • First practice: Aug. 31
  • First competition: Sept. 21
  • Championships: Nov. 12-21

Soccer

  • First practice: Aug. 31
  • First competition: Sept. 16
  • Championships: Nov. 4-7

Badminton

  • First practice: Aug. 31
  • First competition: Sept. 14
  • Championships: Nov. 7 (individuals), Nov. 9-12 (teams)

Swimming and Diving

  • First practice: Aug. 24
  • First competition: Sept. 14
  • Championships: Nov. 5-7

Cross Country

  • First practice: Aug. 24
  • First competition: Sept. 9
  • Championships: Nov. 12-13

Golf

  • First practice: Aug. 17
  • First competition: Aug. 24
  • Championships: Oct. 26-29 (Div. I), Nov. 2-5 (Div. II)

KTAR News’ Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.