When the pandemic began forcing postponements of fall sports to the spring, the very first conference in the state to make the move to postpone its fall offerings was the Big 8 Conference. On Monday, the conference announced its intention to fully schedule competition in the spring for fall sports for its ten member schools (eight in football), and those schedules appeared online as of Monday, August 17.
In football, for example, what would have been a power-packed showdown in the fall between two teams coming off of huge 2019 seasons and an epic Homecoming thriller in the regular season is now one of the conference's first games in the spring. March 26 will see Madison Memorial host Verona at Mansfield Stadium, as well as the annual East-West rivalry game in Madison at Breese Stevens Field. The same week will also be the first football game at Bank of Sun Prairie Stadium, when the Cardinals host La Follette.
Volleyball gets underway for conference events March 2, with the conference meet scheduled for April 8 at Madison East. Boys Soccer is scheduled to go for just 29 days, April 6 to May 4, while other sports, such as girl's golf, cross country, and others, haven't had their schedules determined as of the announcement.
Here is the statement and link to the Big 8's announcement on Monday:
The Big 8 Conference supports the fact that education based athletics is a privilege, not a right, which requires an added level of responsibility for those that administer them and serve as a partner in the education of student-athletes.
All Big 8 member schools have determined they will opt in to the alternate fall season and hope to have conference competition for all sports. We are working on creating these schedules and altering the existing winter and spring seasons to accommodate the change of dates.
We will continue to get regular updates and guidance from local Public Health officials, DPI, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and communicate with the WIAA to make sure the correct information is released as soon as possible. The next update of timelines and information related to the status of Big 8 athletics and winter sports can be expected following the regular Big 8 meeting October 14th.
As each district allows, to put the physical and mental well-being of our student-athletes at the forefront we will offer sport-specific virtual coaching and workouts provided they do not require student-athletes and coaches to gather or encourage student-athletes to group together. In-person practices and workouts may be allowed to occur in parallel to the instruction model adopted by member schools and following public health recommendations.
For the 2020-21 school year if all member schools are not able to participate fully in conference contests during season dates as scheduled, Big 8 Conference competitions will not be held and conference champions will not be named. Passed 10-0
All schools will be supported in their local decisions and may have the option to schedule non-conference competitions in any sports during adopted season dates but not to displace conference competitions if offered, so long as they follow the guidance of the WIAA and local public health officials.
Please contact your school's athletic director for school-specific information and timelines. Decisions regarding remaining sports during the school year will be made in a similar fashion.
The next Big 8 meeting will be virtually on September 21st following the WIAA Area meeting. In the interim the conference will collaborate on best practices for virtual coaching opportunities and provide ways to engage students by providing mental, emotional, leadership, and fitness support in a robust manner through distance learning opportunities. The group will also advocate for additional access once in-person school and athletics return by proposing flexible coach contact regulations during the school year of 2020-21. Finally, in the immediate future will build tentative schedules and collaborate on return to play practices.
Coaching contact dates and virtual coaching guidelines may vary by district, so make sure to confirm and abide by your specific district's guidelines and restrictions for live virtual coaching.
For out-of-season sports, as with any "normal" offseason, programs for individual training or workouts may be shared - such as stretching, flexibility, and warm-up routines, strength and speed training, conditioning, and mental preparation/sport psychology resources - so long as it follows normal WIAA Coaching Contact rules. This clarifies that coaching instruction is not allowed for non-fall sports for schools in the virtual learning model but connections to see how they are doing and supporting the academic needs of students through monitoring and advocacy are encouraged. Please help us in guiding our student-athletes, coaches, and families through a terribly difficult situation and circumstance. We are going to need your help looking for signs that people need help. We have resources to share for mental health and support.