For the second season in a row, the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association will not crown state champions.
On Friday, the VISAA Executive Committee voted unanimously to not sanction any state championships for the 2020 fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The move comes several months after the VISAA opted to cancel its spring sports season.
Dick Kemper, the VISAA executive director, said the decision was made after considering many factors, including the safety of all concerned and operational challenges facing member schools heading into the upcoming school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was difficult, but the right decision for the safety and health of our school’s student-athletes,” Kemper said.
But Friday’s decision doesn’t necessarily spell the end for fall sports this year.
Kemper said that private school conferences and schools may make individual decisions to compete in regular season contests.
St. Anne’s-Belfield athletic director Dewayne Robinson said earlier this week that the Virginia Prep League and League of Independent Schools plans to release a joint statement regarding member schools and their athletic plans moving forward on Monday.
Fork Union Military Academy athletic director John Shuman said his program expects to field athletic teams this fall.
“We respect the VISAA championship ruling; however, we interpret that decision as we can continue with the planning of each of their sports seasons under the government guidelines,” Shuman said.
The FUMA athletic director said they have a plan in place for low-risk sports such as cross country. Plans for football and soccer are still ongoing.
“As a school, we have been working very hard to create a healthy and safe plan for our cadets,” Shuman said. “We like the idea of delaying the moderate and high-risk sports to October, however, we don’t want to combine or switch seasons. Furthermore, our postgraduate football program is planning on competing this season with a Sept. 5 season opener.”
The VISAA’s decision is not a big blow to Woodberry Forest, which opts to not compete in the state playoffs due to its annual rivalry game with Episcopal. Tigers rising senior quarterback Ben Locklear said he’s been looking forward to his final year of high school football. He’s spent the last several weeks working out with teammates in preparation to play this fall.
“Coach [Scott Braswell] has just been keeping us working hard and the news wasn’t really bad for us, so we are all good,” Locklear said. “It would be horrible not to have a senior season though and I honestly don’t know how I would react until that happens. We are just preparing ourselves for anything, but still keeping hope of a season happening.”
Kemper said no decision has been made regarding winter and spring sports. He said the VISAA expects to make a decision on winter championships by early November.
“Each season will be evaluated on its own according to the COVID-19 levels in the state and the CDC and state recommendations and guidelines,” Kemper said.