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Fall high school sports in Utah given green light to ‘Play Ball’

High School football has been cleared to begin as soon as next month, which appears to have players from other states now transferring to Utah. (PHOTO: Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — They’re off and running.

The Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) approved fall sports in Utah public schools on Thursday.

The UHSAA board of trustees will reevalute the decision in three weeks as the impact of the coronavirus evolves.

“99 percent of the communication I had received in the last week had been from parents, educators, basically saying our kids are hurting. They’re hurting mentally. They want to return back to the way it was as much as they can,” Robert Cuff, the executive director of the UHSAA, told reporters after the meeting.

Parents can still opt-out of sports activities for their children just as they can for in-person learning, Cuff said.

Sports included in Thursday’s announcement are:

  • Football
  • Cross Country
  • Volleyball
  • Girls Soccer
  • Girls Tennis
  • Baseball (1A)
  • Boys Golf (2A-6A)

Some of the safety measures for the fall include:

  • Cleaning and sanitizing of facilities and equipment
  • Hand sanitizer being readily available
  • Encouragement of proper social distancing and hygiene etiquette

An executive committee met electronically Wednesday to layout what some of the issues to opening the fall season might be.

“We’re just going to have to wade through this, navigate the best we can,” explained Craig Hammer, executive director of secondary schools for Washington County School District and chairman of the UHSAA’s executive committee. “However they want us to do it is what we have to d0.” 

Orange problem

All schools in Salt Lake City remain in the “orange” recovery phase of the pandemic. That designation limits gatherings at 50 people. Additionally, a mandatory mask policy in the city could also complicate matters.

“We’re all thinking about the start of school, and I know all of you are working on your plans,” Hammer told the group, which mostly consists of high school principals and athletic directors, on Wednesday. “I think we’re all doing the best we can with the information we have.”

High schools remain under the jurisdiction of their county health departments and the guidelines provided to them.

“I think it’s pretty clear you’re going to be at the mercy, and I’m not sure that’s the right way to phrase it, but essentially that’s what it is, you’re going to be at the mercy of local health departments,” Hammer told the committee. “That’s probably going to be your biggest challenge.”

Mid-season adjustments to high school sports may be needed, according to the Deseret News. Those adjustments would most likely come from the direction of local health agencies and the school districts.

“We understand and acknowledge that it may not be a flow throughout the whole fall season, and there may be some stop and go. There may be some reevaluation and monitoring along the way but at least this is a start to say to our schools, ‘We’re ready to move forward. We need your help,’” Cuff said.

UHSAA canceled all spring sports through the rest of the 2019-20 academic year due to COVID-19.